In the 1950s, when home electronics such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines became more common, there was a belief that domestic tasks could be done in a fraction of the time. We now know that it did not work that way. Our definition of purity changed. Instead of wearing the same underwear several days in a row, we began to use a new pair every day, thus increasing the amount of laundry immensely. In short, the new technique allowed us to work more, not less. Our work environments have followed a similar path. Tools like e-mail allows us to communicate more, rather than to make life easier. In fact, many people feel overwhelmed by the amount of email they receive.
The problem with e-mail
E-mail has changed our expectations of communication. Most of us feel that we must always be available. We are bound to our inboxes and, like Pavlov’s dog, we have to check who we have got a new e-mail message every time the ping to. We are always available, will be constantly interrupted and constantly overwhelmed. Like it or not, but email is still a necessary evil. But that does not mean it has to control us. We can tame the monster, and it all starts with doing less. Like any animal, the more you feed it, the bigger it gets. It is time to put the e-mail monster on a diet. We can achieve this in a simple way: by using e-mail less.
Believe it or not, but to write much less with email but still effectively communicate with our customers and colleagues is quite possible. You probably do not need to send all the emails as you do today. You can certainly reduce the number of people that you copy into your email message. Remember that the more emails you send, the more you will get back. It’s that simple.
E-mail is not always the best form of communication. A personal meeting or a phone call is usually very effective. For what we are saying is really just a small part of what we communicate. Tone of voice and body language says much of our message and is also an important part of communication.
Instant messaging over a chat is another option to consider. Even if it’s intrusive at times, it may be perfect for quick questions.
The less you write in an e-mail message, the more concise answer you will get. People tend namely to reflect the behavior of others. You may feel short emails are less friendly, and will be perceived as unpleasant, but this problem can be avoided. Now do not get me wrong, to be friendly and personal with customers is important. But e-mail is not the answer. If you want to chat, call the person instead.
Email to feel more like Twitter than traditional mail. Try to summarize your message as soon as possible in your email. This will make it easier for the reader to get the gist of your message. In addition, you will notice that some will begin to do the same in their e-mail, making communication much faster.
An even easier option to get their short messages accepted and not perceived as unpleasant is to use the signature “Sent from my phone” that many people use these days. A good excuse to get to the point quickly.
The easiest way to cut down on response is to tell people that they need not answer. For example you can write FYI (for your information) in the subject line. But this stuff obviously no unsolicited e-mail.
Most of us get a lot of unsolicited e-mail, despite the excellent spam filter. These emails are often newsletter that we have never subscribed to, or messages from companies from which we once made a purchase. Whether we ever agreed to receive these emails, clutter they now our inbox. You may be tempted to just delete them and then get a better affordable inbox. But take the time instead to find the unsubscribe link. This will prevent these companies to contact you again. If you do not find any unsubscribe link in the message, create a filter that automatically removes the email from the sender for you. It takes you only a few minutes and will save time and distraction in the future.
Make yourself free from all interruptions
With reference to our previous connection to Pavlov’s theories, we can not resist checking our inbox when we hear the sound of a new e-mail message was mostly for fun. But do you check, for example, your e-mail every five minutes will result to over 32,000 interruptions per year!
Do we really need to check our inbox so often? The majority of all e-mail coming in are either unwanted or can safely wait a few hours. The number of email messages that truly require urgent measures are often actually relatively low.
Start by turning off the feature that allows or blink when you get new messages to your inbox.
Then we have the problem that we perceive certain emails anxious even though they are not. It’s just a matter of educating our clients not to expect an immediate response. Of course it is not always possible. A solution to this is to activate an automatic reply message, a short and sweet autoresponders to announce that you have received the message but the reply may take some time. Anyone who sent a message to you get a confirmation that you received the message directly, thus becoming less impatient to receive answers from you.
Then create filters to get incoming messages from the addresses you already know that you do not need to answer, for example, the newsletter that you subscribe to. The filter that sorts them into separate folders automatically.
Organize your inbox
Many people make it more complicated than it needs to be, because they are not organized. The biggest problem they have never moves emails from their inbox. To have an inbox filled with hundreds or thousands of emails increases the time it takes to process new messages. With so much junk, figure out what needs to be treated and what has already been read are confusing. It is done to something important message to fall through the cracks. Your inbox is where emails should end up, but not where they should stay. Clear instead of your inbox every time you open it. You do not necessarily act on every e-mail directly – just read it and decide what to do with it. You have five options when you read an e-mail message:
If you have time to act promptly do so. This may mean that the answer or complete a task. But do not act immediately if you have something more important to do.
Slide it up
Too busy to handle e-mail immediately? No problem. Mark it with a label so that you easily see what has been put aside, to be dealt with at a later date.
Many e-mails that we receive does not require any particular action, but only contains useful information. In such cases it is sufficient to save them in a folder for future reference.
If the email is spam or missing any long-term value, delete it.
Some e-mail messages require action, but you might not be the best person to do it. In these cases, delegate this task by sending the message to the right person.
The bottom line is that your inbox is just a repository of raw emails. Once you have read it and decided what to do with it, move it out of your inbox to make room for future emails.
You may be intimidated by the thought of having to process all those emails when you stare back at your inbox. This may seem like too much work. But I promise you, it will be worth it. If your inbox is too overwhelming, save away everything older than a week. If any e-mail message has not been treated in over a week, it is probably still too late to answer it now.
The trick is to treat everything in your inbox. Do this and I promise you’ll never look at emails with the same horror again.