1. Empty your inbox and keep it at zero.
Be clear on what is coming in, which emails are putting pressure on your time and attention, and what you need to keep on top of. Keeping your inbox at zero will help you make quick decisions about what each email means, which are valuable to you and which you need to be ruthless with.
2. Perfect the art of the subject line.
Writing clear subject lines is the best way to reduce the volume of emails coming back to you, as well as ensuring that the emails that you send to others are clearly understood and quickly dealt with by their recipients. Always match your subject lines to the content of your email.
3. Keep it short.
The website www.fivesentenc.es. recommends never using more than five sentences in an email. If you have more to say, pick up the phone, or put it in an attached document. Use short bullet point lists to keep your emails brief and to the point. That way, your five sentences can be devoted to describing the action required and your message is more likely to be clearly understood.
4. Make decisions.
Never close an email without having decided what action, if any, you need to take as a result. That way, you will never waste time reading an email more than once. Reduce procrastination time by increasing your decisiveness.
5. Turn your email off.
Do not be a slave to your email account. Turning it off, even for just an hour a day will increase the focus and energy you have available for other tasks.
6. Do not mistake connectivity for productivity.
It is easy to think being connected means you’re getting things done but we all need our rest time it’s so much easier it is to make those difficult decisions in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
7. CC less.
CC is an over-used button and the cause of much of the excess volume that we see in so many offices. Think before you send an email about who really needs to be copied in and remember, every email interruption costs a colleague’s time. Include on the address line anyone who is actively involved and use CC for ‘information only’.
8. Keep your reference folders simple.
Having sub-folders and sub-sub-folders only makes it difficult for you to quickly file emails away. Have a simple folder structure with no more than a dozen, broadly-defined folders. This will save you a lot of filing time and the chances are it will not affect your ability to retrieve emails at all.
9. Know your audience.
Resist the temptation to forward your favourite ‘funnies’ to professional contacts you want to respect you, but equally, recognise when a little informality will help build a stronger working relationship.
10. Facilitate discussions about email policies within your organisation and invest in some good training.
Surveys indicate that the average employee spends between 30% and 40% of their time on email, so even getting slightly better at it can be a huge productivity saving.