By Jon Jorgenson, Group Director, Access Group
Managing your email inbox is often seen as a necessary yet daunting task, particularly when arriving back in the office after taking time off work.
German vehicle-maker Daimler has recently spoken out about its innovative approach to holiday email. The company’s staff takes an approach of deleting their inbox items on return from annual leave, acting on the theory that all emails should be picked up by a colleague while they’re away from the office. The approach has been largely heralded across social media channels.
The overwhelmingly positive response to a ‘delete all’ approach to email raises some startling concerns over the inefficiency of email. Emails can take up a huge part of a working day. An overflowing inbox is often a distraction from other important business tasks and many people end up spending time out of hours managing emails through their mobile devices, just trying to keep up.
When used appropriately email is a useful communication tool, but so many of us feel overwhelmed by the amount of emails that arrive in our inbox daily. However, there are strategies you can take to manage your inbox to ensure that you’re more productive at work.
Five top tips to manage your inbox more efficiently
1. Delete first
After opening your inbox, the very first thing you should do is delete any unnecessary messages or spam you’ve received. You’re then left with high-priority mail to respond to. Emails such as auto-alerts can be recognised from the subject line and usually require no action. Don’t forget that moving messages to your trash bin doesn’t permanently delete them and you can still retrieve them later in the day if you need to. If you delete the items you don’t need to act on first thing in the morning, you’ll be much more likely to start your day productively.
2. Only check your email when you have time to respond
Resist checking your inbox on the run and only do so when you have time to actively respond to your messages. It could be helpful to devote certain times of the day to checking email. Having a regular routine may relieve stress levels and increase the amount of time you have available during the day to complete more pressing tasks.
3. Sort your messages – keep them organised
Email is a communication tool rather than a to-do list. It’s important to file your messages away as soon as you can. By responding to simple urgent messages as soon as you receive them, you can easily free up space. You can file away the emails you receive which don’t need addressing for your records in the appropriate folder. Always flag emails as unread if you plan to come back to later in the day or during the week, to make sure they aren’t lost in a crowded inbox.
4. Don’t be afraid to communicate offline
Face-to-face communication or a quick phone call allows you to engage fully and really understand what somebody is asking of you. It’s important not to forget how effective speaking to people in person can be in a world of digital communication. After all, emails are only a small part of the communication process.
5. If you want to receive less email, send less email
Make sure you only send necessary emails to limit the emails in your own inbox as well as the person you’re corresponding with. Write short, and use concise, clear language where you can. Whilst it’s important to explain yourself thoroughly, it’s also best to be straight forward so that the responses that you receive in return are useful.
Where does the future of email lie?
While there are ways of helping to manage emails more efficiently. I believe we are going to start to see a shift toward using technology that can replace emails with more time effective ways of communicating.
For example, enterprise cloud communication tools provide ways of allowing people to communicate as they would on email through perpetual messaging. Such solutions bring together elements of instant messaging, group chat and online communities into a group messaging application for businesses. Because these tools are SaaS or platform based the messages don’t fill up in an inbox, but there is still the ability to go into the system at anytime, anywhere and catch up on conversations as the message history is always there.
Many businesses are also increasingly using collaboration tools to comment, monitor, and talk about tasks and projects in a central location. Activity feeds provide a full audit trial of communication, which can be accessed and read wherever you are and prevents an inbox from getting clogged up with emails.
An oversized inbox is a daunting prospect and with technology increasingly available that can boost productivity and dramatically reduce email volume, a change in the way businesses communicate is ahead. The email will continue to have a place in the business world, but I believe the frequency in which it is relied upon may be under threat.