Navigating the Remote Reality — 10 Ways to Avoid Email Overload

remote reality email overload

By Ernie Humphrey, CTP

In the new world of working from home (WHF) emails are coming hot and you are most likely pumping out more emails than ever. But this overload is often clutter with time-wasting, non-essential emails. It is important that we avoid emails with no purpose and take control of our email inbox.

We have all received (and are also guilty of sending) the 2-word “Thank you” email or the 1-word “Confirmed” or the quick “Have a nice weekend, too!” The danger level of these emails overtaking our inbox in the Age of Social Distancing is extreme.  Here are some ways to help you from sending emails that just do not need to be sent and help keep unproductive emails out of your inbox.

In terms of sending emails, before you hit send ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this email I am sending?
  2. What action do I want to result from the recipient(s) in reading this email?
  3. Who is copied on this email? Does everyone need it, or I am just doing a CMA (covering my own …)?
  4. Can I convey what I need to get across more succinctly?
  5. Would a phone call, text or Slack message be better?  If you know an email would evoke an emotional reaction, then pick up the phone.

In terms of managing emails:

1. Let your co-workers know the best way to communicate with you.

Set expectations by channel (email, phone, text, message) on your response time, especially if they need your urgent attention.

2. Let your suppliers/vendors know your tolerance for emails.

If you do not like to communicate via email let others know by setting expectations early on or having an auto-response to your email. Be sure to tell them the best way to reach you for urgent matters. 

3. Customize your email settings. 

Understand what filters, categories or priority settings are available for your inbox.  If you’re still getting lots of spam, work with IT staff to get it set right, do not accept getting 100s of emails every day that reduce your productivity at work.

4. Manage what you subscribe to when doing business on the internet.

You may need to sign up to get something, but the first time you get an email from them, unsubscribe (take the time before e-mails from this party annoys you). Or setup a free email account for all your subscription emails when you’re trying to get something.

5. Control the time you spend on email.

Checking email every 6 minutes or when you hear the notification is extremely unproductive and distracting. According to experts, it can take 23 minutes to return to a task after a disruption. Schedule dedicated time for reviewing and responding to emails so you don’t lose focus on your other work responsibilities.

Communication is more important than ever with teams being dispersed, but we need to ensure our communications add value and not used as a way to prove we’re really working. Let the quality of your work prove your productivity, not how fast you can respond to an email.  

Next in our series, we’ll explore how to effectively listen to an email.

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