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7 Ways to Exorcise Your Email Demons

7 Ways to Exorcise Your Email Demons

Email has become such an integral part of our lives that it’s nearly impossible to go without it. You can’t simply ignore them and continue to function normally. Just like anything else, however, email needs to be managed and thoughtfully integrated into your schedule.

A popular productivity hack for managing email is the idea of an Inbox Zero. That means getting to a point where you have no emails left in your inbox. Unfortunately this is pretty unrealistic and exhausting. There is always going to be a new email in your inbox and if your goal is to get to Inbox Zero, chances are you’re going to spend your entire day just clearing out each mail as it comes in. A perpetual hamster wheel.

Instead of being glued to your phone or computer, watching for new messages like a hawk, here are seven ways to more realistically manage your emails:

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1. Be clear, concise, actionable, and relevant with emails. The idea here is to cut down on the back-and-forth. With ambiguous and open-ended emails you’re only going to get people emailing you back for clarification so you can expect a new email for every one you send out. You want the recipients to clearly understand your email and not have to respond.

2. Use Gmail’s priority inbox. It automatically tries to separate your important emails from everything else. Priority inbox learns which emails are important to you based on your emailing history and what emails you mark as important. In default mode, it automatically separates your mail into ‘Important and unread’, ‘Starred’ and ‘Everything else’, but you can easily change these settings to something that suits you. Filtering your email shows you exactly what you need, the rest is usually junk or distractions.

3. Don’t check your email too often. This is the biggest productivity killer. Every time your email distracts you, you’ll need about 5-15 minutes to recover your focus on the task you were doing. Set up regular but infrequent time slots to check your email. Some people try to power through work first thing in the morning and then slot in an email check before lunch. Then one last quick check near the end of the work day. Creating these time crunches helps to zero in on emails that require immediate attention.

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4. Use Boomerang so important emails don’t fall to the bottom of your inbox. It’s a pretty nifty plugin that allows you to schedule emails and reminds you to follow up. One particular feature allows you to remove emails from your inbox and bring them back to the top at a later, more convenient time. The Mailbox App for your smartphone also has this feature.

5. Receive less email by sending less email – practice what you preach. Drawing from Point 1, sending email means you will be receiving email. So if you send less, you’ll receive less. Not only are you helping yourself but you’re helping the recipient form better habits too – everyone wins.

6. Have an email routine. Besides when you decide to check your email, how long you’re allowed to spend reading or writing should also be limited. By setting up a strict routine you’ll know when your time is up and to return to your immediate to-do list instead of being side tracked by a supposedly urgent issue. If it is really urgent, you would likely receive a call.

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7. Speaking of calls, don’t handle controversial or highly sensitive topics through email. Email is the worst medium to communicate emotion. All the recipient sees is text so they tend to fill in the context and emotions around an email themselves. If you have something very controversial, you are better off discussing this over the phone or in person to avoid misinterpretations and miscommunication.

Ultimately we need to realize that email is simply one of the many tools we use to communicate with people. It’s important not to think of it as our job and become a slave to it. By using these tips, you’ll be able to manage it more effectively and be more productive. Get rid of those email demons once and for all.

Do you have any other tips for managing email? Let us know in the comments below!

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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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