How to Cut Your Email Time in Half, Constantly checking your email is an addiction that’s destroying your productivity. Here’s how to break the habit, by Stephanie Vozza.
Fast Company contributor Stephanie Vozza offers five tips for managing emails so that you can significantly reduce the time you spend on emails. Keeping these tips in mind can help you build good habits but will also require a great deal of determination. We recommends this article to midlevel managers, procrastinators and those who find themselves compulsively checking emails every few minutes.
- Compulsively checking your emails stymies your productivity.
- Set a specific time slot (or slots) each day for working on emails.
- If you send fewer emails and copy fewer people, you will get fewer emails.
- Auto-sort emails into different folders based on subject and priority.
- Your inbox isn’t a to-do list for later; act on each email by choosing to “delete, delegate, do” or “defer.”
For many people, monitoring their inboxes has become not just a habit, but an addiction that can trigger the release of the pleasure hormone dopamine in their brains. Checking email has also become a method of procrastination for people who want to put off doing the more difficult tasks that await them. Of course, many people’s “fear of missing out” also contributes to this productivity-killing habit.
“People have to understand that the email problem is largely their own fault.” (time-management expert Kevin Kruse)
To reduce the amount of time you spend on emails, heed these five tips:
- “Put it on the schedule” – Stick to a set schedule for checking and working on emails. Put this schedule down in your calendar like you would any other task. You might try a schedule of checking email three times a day: once in the morning, once at noon and once at night.
- “Quit the CC” – Write fewer emails and copy fewer people on your emails. Try to refrain from hitting reply all unless you have to. Before you send out an email, carefully consider whether sending it is necessary. This little change alone reduced the amount of email traffic by 50% at one company.
- “Set up rules” – Take advantage of your email provider’s organization functions: Set rules that will automatically filter nonurgent emails and sort them into separate folders. That way, they won’t distract you, and you can read them at your convenience.
- “Stop using your inbox as to-do list” – Don’t treat your inbox like a task list that will remind you of undone chores until you complete them. To have an empty inbox when you go home at night, follow the “4 Ds”: First, check whether you can immediately “delete” the email; if not, consider whether you can “delegate” the task to someone else; if you can’t, “do” it right away if it doesn’t take too much time; if more time is required, “defer” the task to later – but make sure you add it in your calendar right then and there.
- “Inform others” – Tell your boss and co-workers that you are changing the way you deal with emails. Explain that you intend to increase your productivity. This will help you stick to your schedule and feel more at ease. Make sure others know how to reach you in time-sensitive cases.
About the Author
Stephanie Vozza writes about business and productivity for magazines, websites and companies. She founded the e-commerce platform The Organized Parent and is the author of The Five-Minute Mom’s Club: 105 Tips to Make a Mom’s Life Easier.