‘Email, instant messaging, and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized’ – Marilyn vos Savant
The average person spends 28% of the workweek reading and responding to email
– The McKinsey Global Institute found that an average employee spends 13 hours a week reading and responding to email.
– This equates to 650 hours a year spent on completely reactive, low-value work.
Less than half of emails deserve attention
– According to studies average inbox contains only 38% important, relevant emails. This means 62% of the emails in the average inbox are not important and can be proccessed in bulk !
– Just a few years ago, the breakdown of important vs. unimportant incoming email was 42% to 58%, meaning today’s typical inbox has shifted toward more noise than before.
It takes 64 seconds to recover from an email
– Email interruptions are a drain on productivity.
– A study by the Danwood Group found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover from an email interruption (regardless of the email’s importance) and return to work at the same work rate as before the interruption.
The number of email users, email accounts, and email sends is only increasing
– According to Radicati’s Email Statists Report, 2015-2019, there were 2.6 billion email users in 2015. This number is expected to grow to over 2.9 billion by the end of 2019.
– In the same amount of time, it’s predicted that the average number of email accounts will increase from 1.7 to 1.9 per email user.
– 205 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2015. This number is predicted to increase by 3% annually through 2019, ultimately reaching over 246 billion email exchanges daily.
Based on this facts, things are clear. We exchange too much e-mail and spend too much time on non-value items. This is not going to stop.
So, how to organize my emails at work to be productive and focus on what matter the most ?
Rule#1: Tun off e-mail notifications
This is one of the key point of the book The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss.
In his book he recommends to check emails once or twice a day and explain how.. To me I found it a bit too much since a lot of the communication is based on email and if you aren’t self employed you can have problems with your boss and your team if you are not reactive enough.
What I do is to check every 2 hours: 10am, 12 am, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm.
If something can’t wait for 2 hours, that means it’s urgent. If it’s too urgent, the sender would pick up his phone and call you !
This amazingly increases the attention and focus on the important tasks and to prioritize your tasklist. As explained above, we need 64 seconds to recover from an e-mail and re-focus on what we were doing. Can you imagine over a day, week a year ! all the time wasted …
Do the same for all other notifications (Facebook, Whattsapp, twitter, Instagram etc…).
Whether in your private or profesional life, if someone really want to contact you, he/she will call you.
Rule#2: Classify your emails using the following method
We need to consider emails as a process:
All your new e-mail should be gathered at the same place: INBOX
Avoid automated classification because it spreads all your potential tasks at several places and you don’t have an overview of all the e-mails you have to decide how to treat.
To be organised, you need to create folders.
Every 2 hours, when checking your e-mail you have several choices:
- Treat them right away (If doesn’t require more than 5 minutes)
- Put them on your ‘To-do’ list for action (All tasks that require more than 5 minutes)
- Put them on your ‘To review’ list (Payments, reports, news, team work, plans etc…)
- Put them on you ‘To follow up’ list (That’s the list of e-mails you have sent and you are waiting for an answer from the recipient.
You can create one RULE which is: Every messages you received from yourself must go to ‘To follow up’ list.
Actually everytime that you send an e-mail and you need to track the answer or follow-up on the answer later, put your name in the BCC field. This e-mail will fall under your list ‘Follow-up’ and during your daily review, you will know that you need to keep track of this.
To be honest, this tip helped me a lot by reducing the stress of forgetting to keep track on e-mails etc…
Every evening before leaving work, review your ‘Storage’ boxes (above) and priorize what you must treat for tomorrow. This way tomorrow is organized and you can manage your time effectively since you have an overview and therefore ‘Control’ over your e-mail and actions required.
Once your e-mail is treated you need to move it to Archive or a specific folder (See below).
Create a folder ‘Done/Read’ where you put all the emails treated. This will be your Archive email database.
For all e-mail you want to keep in specific folders like ‘clients’, ‘projects’, ‘Reports’ etc.., create dedicated folder where you will manually add the relevant emails already treated related to this topic.
By using this simple method, I really feel my productivity increased a lot and my stress reduced because I was fully in control. Moreover, being able to do a proper follow-up easily on important e-mail sent shows to your team that you don’t forget things and are keeping track of the topics (While somethimes they hope you forgot !)
Thanks a lot for reading and let me know what you feel about this in the comments !