Note: I want to give a big shout out to Dan Markovitz, author of A Factory of One. It is an excellent book on how to gain efficiency in your personal work. Dan outlines things you can do in regards to email that will help with efficiency. While I have been doing almost all of the suggestions for a few years now, Dan did have one suggestion that was new to me and helped me with a problem I was having. I have implemented the suggestion and it works very well. I will point it out below.
On with the blog post.
We all want to improve our efficiency and free up time. In my personal work and in observation, one of the biggest culprits of causing inefficiencies is email. Here are three things I have done to help eliminate some of the distractions and inefficiencies email causes me.
1. Turn off Email Notifications: In Outlook, I have turned off all notifications of incoming email. Nothing popping up in the bottom corner showing a new email has arrived.
Result: When I am working on something I don’t catch the notification out the corner of my eye distracting me causing the back of my mind to have to know what the email was about. I stay focused on my work and can finish what I was doing.
On my phone, I have turned off the lights, sound and vibration of new email notification. There are two reasons: 1) if I am in a meeting and it is making noise or vibrating it is distracting me and others from the meeting and 2) if I am working at my desk is acts the same as the Outlook notification as it beeps or vibrates or flashes on my desk next to me.
Results: I am not distracted by incoming emails at all during meetings or while working at my desk.
2. Open Mail Software to Calendar: This was the new suggestion I found in Dan’s book. Thanks, Dan! When I open Outlook, it opens to my calendar. Not my Inbox! Most mornings, I have a quick email I thought of on the way into work that I have to send when I get in, but I was getting distracted by waiting email in my inbox. I might even forget to send the original email I went to write.
Results: I am able to send an email from the calendar view by selecting New Items –> Email Message from the menu at top. I always finish the email I intended to send out and I am not distracted by the other messages in my inbox. I don’t check email first thing in the morning and get off on the email tangent. I am able to complete something off my personal kanban board before checking email. I feel more productive and less distracted.
3. Use the 4D’s: I have been doing this for a few years, but never had a name for it until I read Dan’s book. When I decide I have time to process my emails I do one of four things: 1) Do it: reply back if it is a short reply or completed the action if it is less than 5 minutes, 2) Delegate it: delegate the work to someone that can help, 3) Designate it: for me this means if it is a larger task I add it to my personal kanban board or 4) Delete it: I have read it and don’t need it.
Results: My inbox is not cluttered with messages that I lose. I know what I have to process when I go into my inbox. I don’t loose track of requests made of me via email.
One last thing. Just because someone emails you doesn’t mean you have to read and respond immediately so don’t feel like you have to be hovering over your email waiting for it. If the person needs an immediate response, they can call. That is what a phone is for. We all have one in our pockets nowadays. Note: I do know some jobs require constant monitoring of email, like an order processor.
How have your improved your efficiency with your email practices?