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Emails Productivity

Employees Email Productivity Boost in 2021

Is it still worth trying to optimize employees’ email productivity in 2021? Well, the usage of emails has never been higher and doesn’t seem to stop overnight.

Employees email productivity can be improved by simple guidelines (fingers on a laptop)

According to McKinsey, we spend nearly a third of an average workweek reading and answering emails. The Radicati Group, Inc. predicts yearly growth in emails of around 4% over the coming years.

I assume that these numbers will increase as a result of working more from a distance in the future. Therefore, I do believe there is plenty of low-hanging fruits to be harvested, improving the way employees use email efficiently.

Does your workplace develop its employee’s productivity and email communication?

I’ve never joined an organization with a specific focus and courses on green employees productivity and email skills. Besides, I’ve never met a governed broad initiative to secure a productive high-quality email culture. I wonder if I’m the only one with these experiences?

Maybe we’ve accepted our current level of email communication as the best we can do? Or we might be anticipating we’re already utilizing email to its full extent? Admittedly, we’re talking a lot about how many emails we receive daily and how things could be better. But how much effort do we honestly invest in walking all that talk?

I’ve taken the freedom to share some experiences, principles, and guidelines in this article. You may use the suggestions as inspiration for using emails more professionally, effectively, and respectfully in your workplace if needed?

Is an email the best choice?

Always ask yourself, “Is writing this email the most productive and respectful way to communicate my message and expectations?”

A real conversation is the most communicative way we can interact with other people. Talking face to face also includes facial expression and gestures. But, if we’re physically separated, an online meeting or phone call may be sufficient.

We should always strive to send emails that are short, “sweet,” and to the point. To avoid mixing things up, try sticking to a single topic per email—without being rigid—and remember, less is more!

Subject to be brief, precise and engaging

The subject is often the first and only part of an email we ever read or scan. A subject is best when small, accurate, and memorable. Like an appealing and conveying headline.

Beware that an email without a subject probably goes directly to spam or trash without ever being read!

Well-written and scannable body text

If you want to signal professionalism, you must send well-written and typo-free messages with adequate punctuation. The spell checker is always helpful, not just in case of clumsy fingers.

Be sure to provide an appealing and scannable structure when the amount of text progress. Your readers don’t have the patience for big chunks of text!

Use headings, paragraphs, bullets, and numbered lists to structure your text. You can also help the reader by using text formatting to emphasize important words and phrases.

Put the right recipients in the To and Cc fields

You must be clear to whom you’re writing and what you expect them to do. If you have some options or suggestions, be sure to express them. By giving recipients options or choices, you can speed up the process and furthermore avoid a game of email ping pong.

The To field is for recipients you expect to read the message. If you need them to do something, make it very clear. Beware, the more recipients, the vaguer the perceived responsibility tends to be for each of them!

The Cc field is for recipients you don’t necessarily expect to read the email. Cc recipients will maybe read, but merely be archiving your email. Be cautious not to misuse Cc as a means of pressure or to display a disrespectful or insulting meaning.

The Bcc field works as a blind copy. Only the sender can see the Bcc recipients.

High priority emails to be followed up personally

To be on the safe side, you better follow up on your top priority emails by talking to the recipient. Don’t rely blindly on a written media, since a perfect email is worthless without being read!

By the way, only use the high priority option sparingly when truly needed. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get an unwanted reputation as Peter and the Wolf.

Response times – what can you expect?

We should never expect an instant reaction when it comes to emails. We must agree in advance before expecting immediate results.

Don’t be a notorious quick replier, perhaps signaling a superficial attitude or exceptionally keen to show you’re online. Anyway, if you’re capable of giving a fast yet thoughtful answer, then do it and move on.

Respect a given deadline as a rule of thumbs! If you’re unable to do that, be attentive and notify in advance.

Forwarding – remember to add value!

Before you forward an email, add value, and make your purpose and expectations crystal clear.

You can use snippets, or screen dumps to help recipients getting to the point quickly.

We must remember to respect each other’s time and effort. So, bear in mind that readers may chew on every single word you forward!

If we spend a little time deleting what’s obsolete or not essential to numerous recipients, it’s genuinely worth it in the long run. Of course, the opposite can be the case with information legally required!

Emptying our Inbox every day (Inbox Zero) can be excellent. But stay clear from throwing the “garbage” to somebody else. It’s not efficient at all just pushing unclear and confusing messages around with a lazy FYI or FYA!

Reply to All – probably not?

We find it natural to send an email to multiple recipients. But when responding to joint messages, the Reply to All option should never be our default choice.

You should strive to send value-adding emails only, and strictly limited to those required recipients. Imagine the total cost reduction and increased productivity if we were living that single email habit!

Only write things you don’t mind getting forwarded

If you are keeping a pleasant tone and style, you can always relax and stay calm. Contrary, you may wonder and bother where your messages might turn up?

When you’re full of intense emotions—good or bad—do raise your inner STOP sign! If we ride on our feelings, we often make mistakes we regret after a good night’s sleep.

When your feelings control you, please stay away from the Send button!

Humor and sarcasm is potential dynamite!

Communicating without our voice and rich body language always increases the risk of misunderstandings and uncertainty.

If we furthermore start playing around with ironic humor and sarcasm in the written form, we must be sure about its potentially unwanted impact too. So don’t be too smart, swift, or tricky with your expression in emails.

How often should I check my Inbox?

I don’t think there is a reasonable one size fits all answer to this question because it depends on the situation. But let’s break it down to be more specific:

First of all, there is a considerable difference between briefly scanning through new items in your Inbox and responding to those time-demanding emails. The latter is something you should schedule and timebox separately while planning your week.

If you’re allowed to plan and structure your workday without any restrictions, then you could give these questions a thought:

“Does my work require to check emails when I meet or within specified intervals?”

If YES, which is quite rare in reality, you better follow the rules.

Nevertheless, NO will be an honest answer for most of us. But we may be habitually adhering to unwritten rules and patterns?

“Do I have my to-dos ready in the morning?”

If you have a plan for the day, then hold to it, and let unread emails be waiting for you.

Only when you need a mental break, you should interrupt your flow and check for new emails. In that way, you’re controlling your Inbox, not opposite! You’ll probably check for new emails a couple or four times per day if you follow this approach. Give it a try to find your sweet spot.

Summing up: Employees Email Productivity Boost in 2021

I guess most of us have achieved our current email skills randomly via learning by doing. But to reach a shared level of high-quality email communication, I suggest that we give each other a helping hand.

And hopefully, this article can be a supportive and inspirational kick starter for some of you? If you choose to test the tips and ideas, you’re more than welcome to share outcomes and experiences here with us.

If you’ve got practical experience from a highly productive working environment, please let us know your “secret” email recipe in the comment section below.

Also, do subscribe for new articles if you’re ready for more from Productivity Hints. Always feel free to contact me if you’ve any kinds of feedback or questions.

Categories
Emails Prioritization Productivity

10 Timesavers Managing Emails Effectively

Would you like to work more effectively with some of these timesavers when managing your emails? You may also be inspired to find new ways to enhance the way you’re utilizing your email application.

Gmail is great for managing emails effectively (Gmail Inbox screen dump)
Learn how you can manage all your emails with ease and speed like a professional.

Do you also get a lot of emails every day?

Most people receive a large amount of information in their Inbox every day. Some of it we judge right away as unnecessary information. We also get a lot of critical emails to handle, sometimes with expectations of immediate completion!

A lot of emails should instead have been conversations. Especially if critical and with a need for instant action!

Let’s write quality emails and have more conversations, right?

I think we all can save a lot of time writing fewer emails while having more conversations. Furthermore, striving to increase the quality of our emails will inevitably lead to more flawless communication.

But how to get better at writing quality emails?

First of all, I suggest a new and shared commitment to be using email in the workplace, even more productively and respectfully. Secondly, I think we need easy to follow guidelines to help us achieve such a joint effort.

We’re talking valuable time and cost savings per employee. Consequently, the larger the company or organization, the more significant savings to harvest!

Imagine receiving just a few but necessary emails in top quality every day at work. Furthermore, covering the remaining part of the information stream via verbal conversations. Wouldn’t that be a pleasant and productive place to work?

But what to do while “waiting” for those perfect conditions to arise? Let’s dive into the 10 Timesavers Managing Emails Effectively for your inspiration:

1. Develop your scanning skills to identify critical emails fast and accurate

Developing the capability to scan and judge large pieces of text improves reading speed and productivity. That’ll also help you extracting essential information buried in fluffy messages.

2. Disable notifications for incoming emails

Unless you have a specific demand to receive notifications, then turn them off! That’s a firm step toward a distraction-free working environment to manage emails productively.

Check the settings in your email application and disable all types of notifications for incoming mail. You’ll typically see notifications enabled by default.

3. Group emails into conversations for a complete overview of threads

Have you ever experienced email ping-pong between multiple recipients? The more people involved, the faster the ball flies back and forth.

Some may lose an answer or two, thus lacking information and the complete overview. The total waste of time and confusion can be significant in such a conversation.

If you haven’t changed the Inbox settings in your email application, then it’s most likely being sort by date.

I suggest enabling Conversation Mode or Conversation View. Be sure to show the latest email at the top of the conversation. Next time you receive new emails in a massive thread, you won’t miss any of them.

4. Searching for emails provides huge timesavers

Do you or your colleagues occasionally struggle to find specific emails? If so, then keep on reading:

It’s a tedious and time-consuming task to scroll down a large number of emails looking for a particular one. Such a manual approach is often the natural way for an average user.

Think about the way you search for topics on search engines like Google or Bing. You probably use one or multiple keywords or phrases in the search field.

It’s possible to search the same way using the search field in email applications. So, instead of stressing your eyes, you’re letting the machine do the hard work for you!

Depending on the email software, you’ve got different additional options and built-in search features. You should try them all out and use them to your taste and temperament.

Ready to do a searching exercise now?

Please find a piece of paper and a pencil before opening your email system.

Think of some emails you know for sure are in the Inbox or Sent Items. Write down the names of recipients and senders combined with matching words from subjects and body texts.

Place the cursor in the search field for the Inbox in Outlook, Gmail, or whatever you’re using.

Start typing the name of someone who sent you an email, then press Enter. You’ll then see the full list of emails from him or her.

Now we’ll add a single keyword matching at least one email from that person. In the search field, after the name, insert a space followed by the keyword. Then press Enter again to get a narrowed-down list of emails.

Next, we’ll search for the same sender combined with a phrase of two words. At the end of the search field, add another space followed by a single keyword and press Enter.

You’ll probably only have a few emails to scroll and maybe just THE email you need. Also, try the same method in your Sent Items.

You can see how powerful and fast you were able to search a massive amount of emails by typing very few pieces of information.

Experiment and develop this approach into a time-saving and productive habit.

5. Mark and organize emails with labels or categories

Many prefer to organize emails into folders. However, beware that the same email can only stay in one folder at a time! Therefore I prefer to use categories, tags, or labels to organize my emails. I’m doing it sparingly, and only when strictly needed as a supplement to search features.

It’s for you to decide which words or phrases that’ll suit your requirements to organize your emails. For inspiration I’ve listed some typical examples below:

  • Customer name/id
  • Project name/id
  • Department name/number

Put emails on a to-do list assigning labels or categories

You can quickly turn emails into to-dos with tags made from labels or categories. Let’s call them Action Flags since they specify any action you define for yourself.

I use four custom-made prioritized Action Flags for essential emails. Please note, I only use Action Flags on critical emails!

Here are my current Action Flags for myself:

  • 1 Do
  • 2 Plan
  • 3 Prepare
  • 4 Evaluate

Please try them out or make your preferred version. Remember to keep it simple from the start. You can always expand your system and toolbox if needed.

You might consider prefixing Action Flags with a particular character and perhaps a letter to ease grouping and sorting.

You can read more about the practical use of priorities in the 4-Step Prioritization Method.

6. Keeping an eye on other people’s responsibilities

Do you have an easy way to keep track of emails awaiting other people? The purpose could be an overview of actions from employees, colleagues, or anybody else.

Let’s say you need to mark an email as expecting action from your boss or the HR Department. You could label it @<your boss’ name> or @HRDept or whatever makes sense.

This tip makes it very easy to follow up without having to remember things. Utilize the search features effectively to trigger timesavers frequently when managing emails.

7. Save time with labels in the message list by Google Gmail

If using Gmail by Google, you can create and assign labels to emails for the quick lookup.

For every label you specify, you can choose to show them in the Gmail message list for easy access. These labels could be your Action Flags or any other frequently used tags.

8. Search Folders in Microsoft Outlook for frequent searches

If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, you can set up so-called Search Folders. Search Folders can show emails matching your tailored criteria.

For instance, you can define Search Folders for each frequently used category like Action Flags.

9. Automate tedious and repetitive work

Do you often repeat patterns of steps in your email system? If so, you should ask yourself, “Is it possible to automate this?”

It’s not essential whether you’re able to solve the technical challenge in the first place. The critical thing is to identify the need for automation.

When you’ve identified the need for automation, it’s quite easy to find solutions on the Internet. Don’t be reluctant to do that, just because you think it’s for nerds only.

You’ll very quickly learn how to utilize handy automation features. Always stay “hungry” to pick up timesavers for your workflow.

10. How to practice Inbox Zero to manage pending emails?

Let’s get a quick overview of the emails in your Inbox. Please notice the goal isn’t necessarily to answer all pending emails right away. It’s merely going through the Inbox deleting, archiving (maybe categorizing) and responding those you can do in no time.

When you’re beginning to master this discipline, it can also be a productive way to take a mental break. It’s similar to emptying your physical mailbox and sorting to keep or trash.

Even if you only have five minutes to spare now, let’s go harvesting some timesavers together by managing those emails in your Inbox effectively.

Before you continue this exercise, I suggest that you add four Action Flags in your email system. Add them from new labels or categories with the below names. You can always rename later to your need and taste:

  • 1 Do
  • 2 Plan
  • 3 Prepare
  • 4 Evaluate

Ask yourself the following sequence of questions for each email:

A) Is this important?

– If NO, then delete it or archive it for future lookup. Then open the next email and begin with A).

– If YES, continue to B):

B) Can I deal with it in less than a couple of minutes?

– If YES, then respond right away or perhaps forward wisely and value-adding to whom you decide to delegate. Then open the next email and begin with A).

– If NO, continue to C):

C) Is it straightforward to-do when I have the time?

At this point, you’re judging whether it’s ready to be dealt with and completed in a row. Not necessarily now, but when you set aside time to handle your Do’s.

– If YES, categorize it as a Do. Then open the next email and begin with A).

– If NO, continue to D):

D) Needs a further evaluation?

If you can’t judge is as a Do, then it probably needs further evaluation (not now! But later)?

– If YES, categorize it as Evaluate. Then open the next email and begin with A).

– If NO, continue to E):

E) Needs more preparation?

If you’re not sure about the future effort on it, then it might need some preparation before planning its execution?

– If YES, you classify it as Prepare. Then open the next email and begin with A).

– If NO, then continue to F):

F) Ready to be planned, right?

Now you’re left with a task to be scheduled; thus mark it as Plan. Then open the next email and begin with A).

Are you enjoying your fresh overview of critical emails?

Maybe you’re surprised about the fast pace with which you were able to test the method? If you weren’t that fast, don’t worry: In the beginning, we tend to indulge in the core content of the emails. I guess it’s our natural eager to deal with it right away.

Enjoy the overview you gave yourself by scanning numerous emails instead of just reading a few. Don’t let it weigh on your conscience only having deleted, categorized, and “snoozed” emails without responding to them.

Now you’re prepared with a solid plan for your effort on critical emails assigned Action Flags. So, next time you open your email application start with the 1 Do’s. That’s focused and productive instead of habitually pinning our eyes at new emails.

I urge you to continue practicing this way of emptying your Inbox for unread or unfinished messages. It will shortly reveal true timesavers when you’re managing some of all those emails in continuous lengths more effectively.

Don’t ever be a slave desperately struggling for an empty Inbox!

While it can be entirely satisfactory to maintain and keep an empty Inbox, you must never be a slave to that goal. If you spend too much time in your Inbox, don’t just continue and accept the circumstances. Instead, you should ask yourself, “Do I receive emails without purpose, or could I benefit from automating tedious and repetitive tasks?”

Sometimes we need to unsubscribe from mailing lists we no longer need. If you need newsletters without disturbing your Inbox, use automation to categorize and archive them for later use.

Summing up: 10 Timesavers Managing Emails Effectively

Hopefully, you’ll experience a more enjoyable way of handling emails playing around with the tips mentioned above.

But to move up the maturity scale, I suggest a new and dedicated general focus to send quality emails only from now on.

Please contact me if you’ve any kinds of feedback or questions. Also do subscribe for new articles, if you’re ready for more.