Emails are an important part of business communication, and when used correctly allow us to correspond with colleagues and clients effectively. However, if not dealt with carefully, your inbox can quickly turn from a useful tool to a wasteful time-sink.
A report by McKinsey from all the way back in 2012 found that professionals spend an average of 28% of the workday reading, responding to, and writing emails. Now consider how much digital communication has increased in the almost 10 years since the study and we’re starting to get an idea of just how much time we spend in our inboxes.
If you’re not careful, emails can turn into a waste of time for you and your employees, making your business less productive and stopping valuable work from being done. However, it doesn’t have to be this way! We’re going to look at how to structure your day, inbox, emails, and policies to make emailing productive.
Don’t Let Email Dominate your Day
Good email strategies start with good time management strategies for your overall workday. This allows you to focus on essential tasks and know how communication fits into them in a way that suits you.
Create a Task List for Your Day
The first thing you should be doing is creating To-Do lists and Tasks for your workday. Some people like to do this first thing in the morning, while others might write it out the night before to finalize topics in order to prepare for the day ahead.
Either way, you should end up with a list of your most important goals and tasks, as well as a basic idea of how you’re going to achieve them.
Create Blocks of Time for Email and Blocks of Time for Work
Next, you need to carve out time for getting these tasks done and the time you need to dedicate to communication. While it can sometimes feel like a nuisance, email (and communication in general) is vital for any business and needs to be factored into your work.
An excellent way to block time for emails is to set aside two 20 to 30-minute windows each day to go through your inbox. For example, this could be at the start and end of your workday. That way, you can deal with emails in a structured way without letting them intrude on your other tasks.
Remove Distraction and Notifications
Speaking of intruding, another vital step to stop emails messing up your productivity is by removing notifications and other distractions. These days, we are constantly bombarded by the flashing lights and noisy pings of various apps, each one vying for our time and attention.
All these interruptions lessen your ability to concentrate on work, specific tasks that require deep focus.
Effective Emailing Improves Productivity
You’ve sorted your day, but when you sit down to sort your inbox and write your emails, there are a few simple tricks to keep things productive.
First, the environment in which you’re dealing with email is critical – just like a messy office can distract you, a cluttered inbox is a sure-fire way to make you’re emailing less efficient.
Apply a Priority Matrix
You should already use a priority matrix to keep your to-do lists as effective as possible, but the same can be applied to your email inbox. The way to do this is to measure each email by how urgent and vital it is. Using these two measures, you can then decide to:
Do: Important and urgent
These emails should be tackled straight away, so open them up and get responding! The sooner you clear them out of your inbox, the better.
Schedule: Important but not urgent
You should put them on the backburner for emails that are important but don’t need to be dealt with straight away. Most good email clients, such as Spike, will offer a Snooze function that allows you to have an email disappear and pop back up at a time and day that suits you.
Delegate: Urgent but not important
Can this email be dealt with by someone else? If so, shoot it over to them to deal with. This is when knowing the importance of CCs, BCC, and Reply All comes in handy, and we’ll get to that later.
Remove: Not important, not urgent
To the trash, it goes!! If an email is neither necessary nor urgent, it has no place in your inbox. As soon as you see a message such as this, you should be deleting it. If this happens a few times with the same sender (such as a newsletter), then make sure to unsubscribe.
If you think that all this sorting sounds like a lot of work that takes up valuable time, well, you’d be right. This is why Spike has Priority Inbox that sorts messages for you. All your important messages are served up while everything else is sent to an “Other” folder for you to deal with when it suits you.
Use Your Subject Line to Summarize
The subject line is the first, and often only, part of an email that a recipient will see. Therefore, you need to make sure that it communicates clearly what an email is about, and more importantly, what action you want the recipient to take.
This makes your email more efficient and allows the recipient to prioritize the message with ease, making company communication as a whole more productive.
Be Concise with What You Write
A professional email should be concise with logical information and action points. This allows the recipient to digest and deal with the message efficiently as well as take the required action promptly.
Keep in mind to strike a balance in tone and know whether your emails need to be formal or merely professional.
Your Company Needs an Email Policy in Place
When people know what they are doing and how they are supposed to do it, they are far more comfortable and can focus on the actual task rather than worrying about how the task should be done. In addition, the chances are you have policies to cover most other aspects of your business, so why not email?
Create a set of policies that employees can follow to avoid conflict and dispel uncertainty when communicating via email. These should include:
How Should You Write? Formal v.s. Professional
There is a difference between formal and professional, and employees must know which to use and when. For example, every email they send to a colleague will be needlessly wordy and time-consuming if they continually use formal formats. On the other hand, if your clients are used to formal emails, and a new team member suddenly sends them an email in the style they would use with their peers, it can also cause problems.
The tone is the most significant differentiating factor between professional and formal emails. This means your language and syntax choices. Additionally, the basic format can differ, including a greeting and signature with a standard email and maybe just saying “Hi Jane” in an email to a colleague.
What you do depends on your business. The important thing is ensuring everyone knows, which means making a clear written policy.
Standard Response Time
The time in which any member of your team is expected to respond to an email should be precise. Of course, if you regularly deal with clients, you’ll likely already have an external response time, but setting up an internal one is just as important.
This is commonly 24 hours but depends on your company and the specific department. Your design team, for example, can probably respond to most messages in 24 hours without much harm. On the other hand, IT maintenance might need a shorter turnaround time to keep things running.
Find the times that work for your teams and make them explicit. Don’t be afraid to adjust them if you see productivity changing, but always be realistic. For example, nobody can respond to all your emails in 5 minutes.
Think About Who the Email is Being Sent To
It’s all too easy to hit “Send All” even when you don’t need to, and this wastes people’s time and energy by clogging up their inboxes unnecessarily. Instead, implement a clear policy on who should be included in any email response. For example, this could be only people who need to take direct action or only those directly addressed in the email.
Is Email the Right Tool for the Job?
It is also worth considering whether you should send an email. However, we aren’t talking about those ill-conceived messages you might want to send in the early hours of the morning, but rather whether there is a better tool to get your point across.
Emails are great for short and concise information and questions, but if you need to communicate a topic to a colleague that is likely to require a lot of explanation or back-and-forth discussion, a phone call or video meeting is probably the way to go.
Similarly, voice messages or a collaborative working session might be the best option. A guide to which tool is best should be part of your policy, although it is more flexible than other aspects.
Make Sure You Have the Right Email Toolkit
Find a platform that allows you to automate your inbox organization and parts of repetitive email sending. What’s more, to stop you from swapping from platform to platform, distracting you from your day, use a program that includes all the tools your team might need.
Spike offers various tools to keep your emails efficient, such as Priority Inbox, Super Search, and Conversational Email. What’s more, it brings all the other productivity tools your team might need directly into your inbox, including:
Make calls between team members, groups, or external parties whenever and wherever you like.
Sort your communication by topic, department, project, and more to keep emails in the right place for the right people. Then, never worry about forgetting to CC someone again.
Spike offers a digital workspace to hash out ideas, develop projects, and more for ultimate collaboration.
Tasks and To-Do Lists
Stay on top of your day with in-built To-Do Lists and interactive Tasks. Most of your to-dos already appear in your inbox, so why not keep them there in a structured way?
When email isn’t the right tool for the job, Spike offers voice messages so team members can explain things clearly.
Organization goes beyond your emails, and Spike’s calendar offers a place to consolidate all your appointments – both personal and professional – so you’ll never lose track
Making email work for you and staying productive are ongoing challenges in a world with so much digital communication, but by following these tips for your day, inbox, and emails, you can start to stay on top. Getting the right platform for your business will also make a massive difference to how efficient employees are with communication, so don’t underestimate the power of getting the right tool for the job.
To stay efficient and productive with your emails, try to remember these four tips:
Don’t let email dominate your day
Arrange your inbox and structure your emails
Create company policies to make emailing efficient
Get the right platform to support your business communications
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