Take a look at this list of email statistics and you will start to understand why you feel so overwhelmed by this digital communication:
- Number of emails sent daily: 269 billion
- Average number of emails an office worker receives each day: 121 emails
It makes sense that 42% of Americans check their email in the bathroom, and 18% check it while they are driving, and 50% of them check it when they are in bed.
They are slowly being buried by an email avalanche hour after hour, and in order to keep it at bay, they feel the need to check in frequently.
According to SaneBox, the McKinsey Global Institute discovered that the average employee spends roughly 13 hours per week dealing with email.
That’s a few hours per day digging through inboxes, clearing out unnecessary messages, and deleting responses that simply say, “thanks!”.
Luckily there are three quick ways that you can deal with the information overload and kick your productivity into high gear.
There are a number of amazing applications that you can use now, to help you get, and keep, organized inside of your inbox.
Depending on the email client that you use, here are a few companies can be the answer to your productivity prayers:
This tool works on your Gmail inbox, by breaking out your emails, to-do’s and task lists into easy to read and quick to identify sections.
Sortd. acts as your personal triage assistant, making sure that things not only stay on track, but keeps the overwhelm at bay.
This handy little assistant works with any email client that you use, and after you set up all of the rules, acts like an NHL goalie with your emails.
It also comes with a nifty analytics report, and at the start of each week gives you the run-down on how many emails you received, how many it redirected according to your rules, and how much time it saved you in doing so.
If you are an information junkie, like most of us are, this wonderful application works to unsubscribe you from the web of newsletters, update emails, and subscriptions you’ve collected over the years.
In one handy little click.
For some, finding and adding in another tool isn’t the right way to go about managing their digital communications.
If you are looking for a right-now solution that doesn’t involve research and integrations between all of your platforms, there is still a LOT that you can do inside the email service you use, right now.
The Hidden Magic of Auto-Responders
One of the greatest auto-responder as productivity tool hack that I’ve ever seen was used by a surgeon that had gone on vacation.
Now, this particular doctor was a very busy person, held numerous board positions, was involved with multiple hospitals, and had two successful practices.
When he went on vacation, as most of us do, he would return to an inbox that was simply unmanageable, and took days to get through.
So, he decided that he wasn’t going to do it anymore, and the genius idea was born.
When he put his auto-responder on, he now offered the following message:
“Hello, and thank you for reaching out. I am currently on vacation from DATE to DATE with no access to email.
All emails received during this time will be automatically deleted, without being read or responded to.
If your message is important, please send it after the return date noted above, and I will respond to you as per my usual schedule
If your situation is urgent, please present yourself at your nearest emergency care facility.”
See that? Magic!
He set the expectation that if you wanted something from him, and it was important enough, you will make a note to follow up, instead of expecting him to do it for you.
Want to use this magical strategy in other ways?
Most people use their auto-responders only when they go on vacation.
However, if used correctly, they can be a simply powerful tool for communicating expectations to whomever is looking to get your attention.
- Don’t check email on the weekend?
Click your auto-responder on before you leave on Friday, and say so.
- Are Tuesday’s reserved for meetings and client calls, so you never have time to check your messages?
Auto-responders communicating this fact can be set Monday night.
- Only check emails once a day?
Keep your auto-responder turned on all the time with this information so that anyone new sending you an email is told upfront, and those that you communicate with regularly will already understand.
Rule Your Inbox
Most email tools come with a ‘rules’ setting, that you can use to triage your emails into specific folders.
In addition to that fact, most of use only have 2-3 category types of email that we receive, and much of it is information-FYI-based.
This means that instead of focusing in on the important emails, you spend your time sifting through newsletters, Groupon alerts, and LinkedIn notifications in order to get to the good stuff.
The quickest way to simplify your inbox is to turn on your ‘rules’ setting, and create a rule for the types of emails that you receive.
If you have important client emails that you need to see first, or want to be able to respond quickly to your mom’s request for brunch, you can set up an “Important” folder and point those emails directly to it.
If you have a particular project or initiative that you are working on, you can create an “Urgent” folder and have any emails associated with that subject appear in a centralized location, free from clutter.
My advice for the quickest way to simplify your inbox, is to create an “Optional” or “FreeTime” folder, where all of the nice-to-have information goes.
These would be things like email newsletters, Facebook or social media alerts, retail mailing list offers, forum updates, etc.
Emails that you would like to read when you have the time, but don’t need to sift through on a regular basis in order to get to important matters.
Now, you may be thinking, “I have 100’s of those! How am I going to put a rule on every single one of those types of email addresses?”.
Fear not. The quickest way to work around this dilemma, is to set the rules on your email redirect to move any email that includes the following words, statements, or links in them:
- Change your email preferences
- Change notifications
- Update Email Settings
This list should take care of the majority of the emails that are meant to be read at your leisure, though you may have to add to the list from time to time as senders get creative with their footer contents.
Regardless of which strategy you use, or if you deploy a combination of strategies, to address your inbox, when it comes to your productivity this is your first line of defence.