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4 ways your email use hurts your productivity

4 ways your email use hurts your productivity

Email is a big part of most peoples lives. You use it to communicate with loved ones, get project updates from clients, send your clients promotions for your products any many other things.

With this heavy reliance on email it’s also become something of a whipping horse for being an ineffective tool. Email is not the problem, how you choose to use your email is the problem.

If you use your email in ineffective ways then of course it’s a terrible tool. A screwdriver makes a terrible hammer, but we don’t insist on using it as a hammer while lamenting how terrible it is at being a hammer.

Next time your complaining about email, make sure you’re not using it in these 4 ways that it should never be used.

1. It’s not a task manager

Your email is not a spot to collect a bunch of action items. It is not your task list.

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First off there is no real way to prioritize your emails, they don’t have ‘due’ dates and can’t easily be grouped in to projects.

Second you don’t control the things that come in to your inbox. Anyone can send you something that they feel is important for you to do and you then have to use brain capacity deciding what to do about that item.

Third you can’t assign an email to someone and then track how it’s going. Sure you can forward it, but do you see the updates between the other people on the email only when you want to see them? Nope you get grouped in with a CC and just get every update even when it has no importance to your day.

Instead of using your inbox as a collection spot for your tasks you need to use something like Todoist or OmniFocus to track them. If you’re on a team and task assignments need to change hands regularly then it’s time to look in to a more robust system like Redbooth or Basecamp.

When you sit down once ore twice a day deal with everything in your inbox by either replying to it right away or pushing it in to your task management system to be dealt with later. Once it’s in your task management system of choice you can give it priority and schedule it to be dealt with.

2. It’s not a file folder

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Yes search in some email providers is pretty good so you can find things fairly easily but your email is not a big file folder for you to store things.

First off, you can’t search inside attachments like a tool like Evernote can. Where Evernote allows you to search and find that text in the specific document email leaves you a long list of items with attachments you need to dig through to find the single thing you need.

Second you can’t efficiently organize all those assets, how do you include a hand written note that should go with the email. You could take a photo and email it to yourself but that just means it’s in with all the other clutter emails that really aren’t that important like the single ‘yes’ email which approved a change to a project.

Instead of keep all your documents in your email, use tools like Evernote to manage all your digital files. Use a project management tool like Basecamp to tie important documents with their projects.

3. It’s not a phone

The beauty of email is that it’s asynchronous so I can deal with an email when it’s good for me and you can deal with it when it’s good for you. We don’t have to negotiate a time to talk in the midst of our busy schedules.

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But text misses so much meaning and many times waiting for that response  holds up a real project with a real deadline. All too often our love of email means we never even think of picking up the phone so we have 22 emails over 5 days trying to clarify nuances which could have been clarified in a 2 minute phone call.

Use all the tools at your disposal to bring clarity to your work and that includes the phone. If you send more than 2 emails trying to clarify something it’s time to pick up the phone and have that 5 minute phone call to get things on track again.

4. Your email attempts consensus building

All to often things get put on hold because no clear action was provided in an email. To combat this it’s time to start making your emails short and actionable.

Pretend your asking someone a question that has 2 possible outcomes. Most emails would look something like this:

Hey Bob,

I was wondering if you liked A or B. Let me know.

That’s a terrible way for you to wait forever to move because Bob just doesn’t deal with his email quickly. Instead write it like this.

Hey Bob,

I was wondering if you liked A or B. I think A is the way to go and unless I hear back from you in 2 days that’s what we will do.

Now you’re not stuck waiting for Bob, you’ve told him that in 2 days you’re going with option A. If Bob doesn’t get back to you in 2 days go ahead and do it.

If you really do need Bob to weigh in don’t send that email, call Bob and take 5 minutes to hash it out then move forward.

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If you can stop using your email in these 4 terrible ways you’ll find pretty quickly that email isn’t that bad. You just needed to use it for the right job.

Featured photo credit: Rolands Lakis via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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