According to a recent HBR article, the average person spends 23 per cent of their day on email and receives around 112 daily emails. Curious how I stacked up to the average, I took a hard look at my own inbox and realised I typically receive one email every 2-3mins. That’s more than three times the average!
And when I started to dig deeper, I realised this level of electronic mail had also started to breed a number of problems.
· Heightened Expectation. Instant and frequent email exchanges started to alter my expectations. For those who are email junkies the 24-hour email response etiquette often goes out the window. The more emails I got, the quicker the response rate I expected from others.
· Addiction. It started to seem unnatural not checking my inbox – and I found myself checking emails in the lift, on my way to work or while waiting for my lunch. Frankly any time I got a break.
· Poor email management. With a flurry of emails, I tried to set up a multi-folder filing system. However, with over 300 emails a day I actually found it better to keep them in one folder so I could use the email search function. How often do you file an important email somewhere so safe you can’t find it?
After realising something needed to change, I now:
1. Turn off emails when focusing on critical work. Not for hours on end, but just one email free hour a day can result in much higher levels of productivity.
2. Prioritise. Prioritising my inbox and only responding to emails that need urgent attention.Not every email needs to be responded to immediately (the 24 hour response time is acceptable for most people).
3. Flag emails that need attention. Flagging important emails throughout the day, enables me to check back later that afternoon to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.
4. Sort emails by conversations. When I have been away from my inbox for a while and need to quickly catch up on things, I sort my inbox by ‘conversation’ so I get a number of updates in one go.
5. Manage expectations. If I am out of the office for half a day, I add an email response so people know when I am available. I have also tried to stop sending emails after hours – so I don’t set a precedent and set unrealistic expectations.
I’ve found small changes to e-behaviours, can go a long way!