If you're anything like the average working professional, you sort, delete, ignore, read, forward, and write over 100 emails everyday. As more companies are willing to abandon their landline phones and even physical office locations in favor of touchscreens and keypads, that number is expected to increase.
As a small business owner, you probably already spend too much time hitting "reply" and not enough time doing the things you want to be doing, whether that's developing innovative ideas, engaging your employees, or simply enjoying an uninterrupted evening with family and friends.
Here's a few tips for email productivity that will help unglue yourself from your laptop or smartphone.
Stay Organized: Hunting through a forest of messages for a lost email is a waste of time, and missed emails can lead to missed opportunities. Both of these scenarios add up to subtracted dollars. Instead of allowing a sea of communication to flood your inbox each day, get organized by setting up a filing system. Set rules that allow newsletters and other subscriptions to be sent to a separate folder. Lastly, take the time to file or delete your new messages each day. A well-managed inbox is much easier to control.
Set Boundaries: Pop-up notifications, rings, and blings make new emails easy to see – and almost impossible to ignore. A "quick reply" can quickly turn into 20 minutes of beautiful sentence crafting, which you'll then have to do all over again when you receive a response moments after sending. Instead of trying to keep up with the Internet's instantaneous speed, set your own pace by setting boundaries. Choose designated times during the day to check your email – and stick to them – even if it means turning off your notifications.
Get to the Point: You can reduce the time it takes to write and organize emails by maximizing their efficiency. Resist the urge to title emails "hey," "the new project," and other equally vague phrases, and instead, give them logical subject lines you'll be able to easily file today and search for later. When writing emails, lead with the most important information first and save the casual conversation for the end. You may find that this reduces your email reading time as well as your employees begin to follow your lead in their message structure.
Draft Emails Offline: If you easily get swept into using email as an instant messaging tool, you may benefit from doing your writing without the internet connection. Drafting emails now to send later allows you to work uninterrupted, at your own pace, and on your own time. (It's also not a bad habit to have should you find yourself somewhere without service!)
Pick Up the Phone: While email tends to be the preferred method of communication amongst businesses, there are still times where a brief phone call or stroll over to someone's desk is the more practical option. If an issue is going to take more than a couple of emails to resolve, don't be reluctant to switch to a more effective method of communication.