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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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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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