According to Microsoft research, the average Outlook user reads 1800 emails & deletes an average of 1500 emails per month. Other studies tell us that many corporate email users handle more than 200 messages a day. It’s no wonder it can be tempting to commit email bankruptcy and just delete it all!
How do you manage this volume of messages without coming down with EMAIL OCD, that is, the temptation to constantly check your email? What are best practices to get you closer to a Zero Inbox? How can you increase your email productivity and start tackling email overload?
Microsoft Outlook, and other email programs, are tools to help you manage not only your email but also your calendar, contacts, and tasks. As such, it is at the center of not only your communications but also your time management. To get the most out of Outlook for handling your incoming email, let’s look at some best practices. (Although some of the features mentioned are specific to Outlook, most of these ideas can help you manage your email and time regardless of the program you use).
Every time you move away from your work to check email, you lose focus and productivity. When should you check email? There are a variety of viewpoints, although most time management and productivity experts agree that one of the keys is to have a schedule or plan on how and when you handle your email. One approach is to check your messages first thing in the morning, sometime around lunch, and then near the end of your work day. Some people shut down Outlook during the other periods in their day just to avoid the temptation. You may find that a different strategy works better for you. Most important is to set a routine you can follow through on so incoming email stops being a big distraction and energy drain.
One drag on productivity is touching a message many times over. When reading your email, decide whether to:
Has this ever happened to you—you get a phone call from someone asking if you received the email they just sent out 15 minutes ago? Apparently, they are waiting impatiently in front of their computer expecting you to respond immediately regardless of what you may be doing at the time. Maybe they should have just called you at the start! Still, some messages may require a quick response even if you have limited time while others can wait.
In addition to initiating fewer email messages, look at other ways to reduce the messages in your Inbox:
Apply these best practices and time management strategies to free you up from your Inbox and to begin taming the Inbox monster.
Discover more Outlook shortcuts, tips and tricks here.
By Dawn Bjork, MCT, The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer, Technology Speaker, Software Consultant