Are you inundated with even MORE email nowadays? Managing email overload is a major challenge even under the best of circumstances. With the recent expansion of the virtual at-home workforce, it’s no surprise that many are relying more heavily on email communication to replace what used to be face-to-face interaction. In addition to many sending more internal emails than ever before, Covid-19 is also shedding light on just how many people and organizations have your email address with the endless amounts of touch points circulating.
So how, in times of Covid-19, can we filter through our overwhelming inboxes, effectively manage email overload, and ensure that we are quickly able to process everything so we can focus on executing on our most important work? At InteraWorks, we have a few tips for you:
Run an inbox cleanup
- Why? By running an inbox cleanup, you are able to reduce the redundancies in your inbox by eliminating the repetitive emails that continuously go back and forth in a thread, that do not contain any unique information (such as an attachment, a new person being added, etc.). Outlook quickly removes the repetitive emails and places them in the Deleted Items folder, allowing you to streamline your focus on what you actually need to keep.
- How? Beneath the HOME tab of your Outlook ribbon, click on the icon of an envelope with a red “X” over it. The “Clean up Conversation” selection means it will clean up one specific email thread, “Clean Up Folders” means it will clean up the entire inbox folder, and “Clean Up Folders & Subfolders” means it will clean up the entire inbox AND all of your inbox folders & subfolders.
Sort your inbox by type (temporarily)
- Why? By sub-grouping like items in your inbox, you can make fast decisions impacting an entire group of emails that you do / do not need to keep (i.e. all of your calendar invitations will be grouped together, all of your Automatic Replies will be grouped together, etc.)
- How? At the top of your inbox where it says, “By Date” (or whatever your current inbox sorting mechanism is) select “Type.” Scroll down and view your new inbox arrangement based on type.
Process your inbox with the 4 Ds & utilize the “touch it once” rule
- Why? By making a quick decision on every item you receive the first time you look at, things cannot pile up.
- How? DELETE what you can, DO quickly what you can (2 minute or less rule), DELEGATE what you can, and DEFER the rest to do later (this way, you can actually get through processing your entire inbox!). If it is not an actionable email and you cannot delete, move it into a Reference file folder.
Batch your time in email
- Why? To ensure that you are not reacting and getting derailed by every single email that you receive but taking time to proactively focus and work on your actual priorities.
- How? Carve out four 30-minute windows on your calendar each day. You can even set these to be recurring appointments over the course of 2-3 weeks while you work to form this habit. Consider setting a 30-minute timer once you begin processing to hold yourself accountable to only being in your inbox for 30-minutes, which will also serve as motivation to put your 4 D’s into practice.
Develop a Communication Protocol with Your Team
- Why? With so many communication tools, there is bound to be differing opinions on when to use what platform. For instance, is email used for quick questions, or should quick questions be asked on Microsoft Teams or through text? Do we use email to make decisions, or should that be done in a meeting? How do we handle file sharing, escalation paths, what is actually urgent, and more? By taking the time to clarify and align on these things, you are better able to focus on your work, experience less distractions, and communicate more effectively as a team.
- How? Carve out a few hours to discuss every communication tool you use and clarify how and when it should be used. Align on the different communication tools and their usage in a document or matrix and keep in a shared location. Resource InteraWorks for more support!
Try these 5 tips for managing email overload and get your hands back on the wheel, whether you’re working at home or in an office setting. They’ll reduce your stress, increase your productivity, and let you feel more in control.
Author – Sarah Furrier
Relationship Lead & Facilitator
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