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6 Ways To Save Yourself From Drowning In E-mails

6 Ways To Save Yourself From Drowning In E-mails

It’s a new day. Without doubt this is going to be a positive and productive day. Then it hits you. You look at your phone and see the little flashing light. You have mail. And you know it’s going to be lots and lots and lots of mail. Suddenly your mood crashes and the brightness of the day seems irrelevant. Before you do anything, you are going to have to wade through your emails.

So how do you stop yourself from getting this sinking feeling every single day and how can you turn dealing with your email into a positive and productive experience?

When You Are Drowning In Email The First Thing To Do Is To Manage The Flow

There is no other way to deal with email, you are going to need a proper system in place to confront it.  A consistent, ruthlessly applied system. If you don’t have a system and stick to it then you are never going to successfully get on top of your email problem. Your system should have a simple goal. At the end of each day your inbox will be completely empty and everything essential has been dealt with. How you set up your email filtering system is entirely up to you, but let’s outline a generally successful structure for you right now.

Step one.

Create a folder. It can be called anything you want. In this folder you are going to store all the emails that need attention, but that do not need to be, or cannot be replied to, or dealt with, that day.

An alternative to creating a folder is to make use of colour highlighting options in your email system. However, it does not feel as satisfying to see lots of coloured emails as it feels to see your inbox with less emails in it.

Step two.

Create an archive folder. This is where you are going to move anything that you think will be useful to keep, but that does not require a reply.

Step three.

This is the filtering stage. Without stopping, go through your entire inbox. If you don’t need it, then delete it. Do this liberally. If you need to follow-up on it later, move it to the action folder. If it is useful but you don’t need to take any action, archive it.

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Step four.

Deal with your email. Now your inbox only contains things that need a response right now. Deal with these as quickly as possible, trying to spend less than one minute per email.

After taking these steps, all you will have left in your inbox are the emails that need to be dealt with before the end of the day. All you need to do then is to go back into your inbox halfway through the day, go through the process again and deal with those remaining emails before you stop for the day. Also you will need to go into your actions folder once per day and work through those emails as quickly as possible.

It’s certainly not a complex system. The important point here is to have a systematic approach to dealing with your emails that achieves two aims:

1. Deals with your entire inbox in one go, leaving you a clear view of exactly what needs to be done right now.

2. Gives you a positive feeling at the end of every single day by achieving an empty inbox.

Dealing with the emails that arrive in a ruthless, consistent fashion is great. But unless you slow the flow of email you will continue to feel like you are drowning. Just like the hideous torture of waterboarding, although you are never actually going to drown, the feeling that you might have can be emotionally detrimental.

So the next step is to take some simple actions that will stem the flow of email forever.

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1. Deal with subscriptions

Take the bold step of unsubscribing from every single mailing list you are currently on. Don’t stop and think that you may want to read something at some stage, just unsubscribe from the lot. I bet you won’t miss any of it.

And if you do, then simply create a separate webmail account and use that to subscribe to mailing lists. Then when you do get spare time you can go into that account and flick through it to your heart’s content.

By doing this, you will also avoid the temptation to get distracted by the latest great thing that someone is telling you!

2. Send shorter emails

You don’t want to appear rude, but you should deal with your emails in as few words as possible. So cut corners and get straight to the point. This will save you and the person reading time.

3. Send less emails

Do you really need to reply to this email? Take a look through all the replies you have sent in the past week. How many of those were actually just acknowledgement’s or confirmations? So don’t bother sending that sort of response again. In 90% of cases the person sending it doesn’t require or expect a response anyway.

4. Utilise your email footer

Most people don’t even bother to have anything at the bottom of their sent emails by default, other than perhaps a disclaimer policy.

First of all make sure you have a proper signature there. This will stop you from being one of those people who types something like “Regards, John” 50 times a week.

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Secondly, create an email policy and put it ther which leads me to the next point…

5. Have a proper email policy

By setting-up an email policy, you can guide people into sending you better emails, or not sending them at all. This policy should be a few lines and be aimed at reducing the number of emails you get.

For example, if you don’t deal with a certain aspect of your business, perhaps your personal assistant does, then it can be tedious to endlessly forward emails to them, or respond and do their job for them.

So initially put your email policy in the footer of your emails. Then set-up an autoresponder containing that policy. In the autoresponder state that if the email pertains to certain topics people should forward the email they have just sent onto the personal assistant. Say that due to the volume of emails you receive you cannot respond personally so if they need a response they need to take action and forward it. Then you can simply delete the emails as they come in.

6. Post a frequently asked questions page on your website

It should be obvious, if you are getting the same email questions time and time again. If you are, then it makes sense to take 20 minutes to create a webpage containing answers and then include that in the email policy you have placed in the footer and in the autoresponder.

You are going to profit wildly from stopping yourself from drowning in email by gaining the most precious commodity of all. If I gave you an extra hour every day you would be delighted. Think what you could do with an extra hour per day, seven hours each week. That is a lot of time to deal with things in your business that will make you money, rather than trying to stick your fingers in the dike to stop the email flood.

The way you filter your emails will be very personal to you. You could try starting with the system I have outlined here, and then adapt it depending on the volume and type of emails you receive. The key point is to commit yourself now to setting up a mental system to ruthlessly deal with your email at the start of every day.

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Once you have done this, you can decide how many times after that you want to go into your email account each day. I would suggest a second time only, just after lunch. Anything that arrives in the afternoon can be dealt with the next morning. There is no harm in scanning your inbox before you finish for the day just to make sure nothing crucial arrives late.

But as you may have already guessed, even more important than setting up a personal system is taking active steps now to stop future emails from arriving at all. A bit of time spent now removing emails from ever arriving and educating people on the type of emails you wish to receive, and telling them what to do in all the obvious cases, can transform your position and gain you valuable time each day.

There is no magic formula for dealing with email, but once you have a system and have set up your own gatekeeper, then giving yourself more time to make money can be a reality.

Or Perhaps There Is A Magic Formula….

One way you can cut out 90% of your email time is to hire a personal assistant (PA). These can be hired from outsourcing sites for a reasonable hourly rate. You can then train them by giving them access to your business email and then using a tool such as Skype to go through your email inbox every day for a week. After that, they can log into your email account every morning and only forward emails on to you that are absolutely vital for you to personally deal with.

So the only additional step you will need to take is to set up a different mailbox. If you receive personal emails, then it’s obviously advisable to steer them into your new email account rather than allowing your personal assistant to read them. Yes this will cost money, but a freelance personal assistant will potentially cost a fraction of the money you can make by freeing up several hours per day in some cases.

I thought I would throw this idea into the mix at the very end to give you food for thought. Dealing with your inbox does not have to be a job you personally do. As long as you are confident you are dealing with the emails you NEED to deal with, why do you have to go through them all by yourself?

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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