“My inbox is a disaster.” “I cannot get on top of my emails and I’m worried what my supervisor and clients will think.” “I’m replying to emails at all kinds of crazy hours and I worry that makes me look inefficient and inept.”
These are just some of the concerns I’ve heard from employees, entrepreneurs, and executives in the last week as they adjust to working remotely. You’re not alone. There’s been a surge in email communication as we all adjust to new working situations.
This isn’t the time to declare ‘email bankruptcy’ or become lax with your email management. It’s vital that you stay up-to-date with emails as it’s likely that critical information is being shared via this platform from your organisational leaders, colleagues, and clients.
However, this also doesn’t mean that you should spend your entire workday triaging your inbox and replying to emails. This isn’t optimal use of your time.
1. Check emails at designated times 2-4 times a day
Now, more than ever, you need to use email at strategic times of the day. Nibbling on your inbox throughout the day can dent your productivity. Unless your primary role requires immediate customer care, there’s no need to constantly check and respond to emails. It will distract you and prevent you from doing the important work you should be doing. Instead, you should be checking emails at set times of the day, usually when you’re not at your prime focus periods. You can read more here about how to identify your focus periods.
Research confirms that checking email 2-4 times per day is optimal as it allows workers to be responsive and not reactive1. Another study found that checking emails three times a day reduced employee stress2. So it appears that the ‘happy’ medium for checking email is somewhere in the range of 2-4 times per day, not every six minutes as many of us do. I developed a simple 6-step signature system for taming email that will easily allow you to only need to check email 2-4 times/day.
2. Set up an autoresponder to manage email response rate expectations
I’m a big fan of the email auto-responder. It helps us to clearly communicate our email response rates to clients, colleagues, and supervisors. You can use your out of office email template to clearly indicate your anticipated response rate. Explain that there may be a delay as you adjust to working from home, or that you’re also supporting your children’s online learning, so email responses may come at unusual times of the day. You can also use it to share links to frequently asked questions or to even redirect the email to someone else.
This is the one I started using late last week. You’re welcome to copy it, or use it and add your own style or links.
These are some of the practical strategies I’m sharing in the new virtual masterclasses I’m delivering to corporate clients who are wanting to support their employees and teams as they transition to remote working arrangements and also look after their digital wellbeing. I also have a mini-masterclass called Taming Email where I help professionals tame their inboxes.