Most people have experienced this kind of situation in their professional life.
→ You have three important tasks to do in a day.
→ You sit at the computer with them in your mind.
→Then you open your email and... it's 3 PM before you know it!
Or - also common - you are jumping between email and task you should do every 5 minutes! Do you know that you need approximately 20 minutes to refocus after the distraction? Wait! Does that mean that you have no chance to focus if you glance at your inbox every five minutes? Yes, it does!
Although emails probably are a big part of your business, you can't let them lead your life. Be intentional with your work organization and focus.
I am sharing four tips to implement in your email activities that helped me become more productive.
1. Check Your Email 2-3 Times per Day
This is crucial - don't overcheck your email! You don't need to keep your email tab open all the time and act on each incoming email immediately. Pick up three (or even two!) times a day to reply to emails. If you don't trust yourself or prefer to keep the email tab open (just for the peace of mind :) - I know it's crazy!) start using a tool like Adios. It will deliver the emails to you at a specific time. However, you can always have a sneak peek when there is some kind of exception.
Once it's time to handle emails, set a timer for 20-30 minutes and go email by email.
Important note! The same technique can be applied to messaging apps. Inform your team about your rule so that they know when to expect you to look at their messages.
2. Use Email Templates and Canned Responses
Do you have the emails you write every month, like sending invoices to your accountant? Or are you getting similar questions that you need the same or slightly modified response to? Using templates is a perfect solution! Whether using Gmail or Outlook, you can set up the templates there.
Remember! Before using templates in Gmail, you need to enable them.
Also, I am using a text expander tool - aText. It had saved me so much time! It is easy to use and you can set up phrases that you frequently use as abbreviations. Some examples of how I am using it:
- "contactdet" - to get my company full details
- "mycalendly" - to get the link to my Calendly link
I also have the responses to the frequently asked questions, templates of reports and many more there!
I just need to type the abbreviation, and a whole phrase pops up. Magic! :)
3. Delegate Your Inbox Management.
If your inbox is flooded with hundreds of emails daily, think about having someone help you with your inbox management. Make sure to set up clear rules and responsibilities with that person so that you can relax and know that your inbox will get the proper care. Certainly, it will take some time to work out the exact folders and rules for each type of communication and canned responses but it will save you time in the long run.
The workflow of handling each email could look like below:
1) Open the email
2) Categorize it/add label based on XXX criteria
3) Reply and move to XXX folder OR move to "Need a personal response" folder
The "Need a personal response" folder is where all emails that need your reply or advice from you go.
4. Use Shortcuts
Another time saver! It's about seconds for each action you perform, but it can be 20-30 minutes within a week, which gives you almost 2 hours per month.
Five Gmail shortcuts I use a lot:
• "A" - Reply all
• "C" - Open up a new compose window
• "U"- Jump back to the inbox view
• "Shift" + "U" - Mark as unread
• "/" - Moves the cursor to the search function.
The same shortcuts in Outlook:
• "Ctrl" + "Shift" + "R" - Reply all
• "Ctrl" + "Shift" + "M" - Open up a new compose window
• "Ctrl" + "U" - Mark as unread
• "F3" - Moves the cursor to the search function.
To turn on keyboard shortcuts:
- in Gmail - go to "Settings", tab "General" and tick "Keyboard shortcuts on", then save the changes.
- in Outlook -go to "Settings" / "More mail settings" / "Customizing Outlook" / "Keyboard shortcuts".
To get used to using the shortcuts, you need to practice it initially. Then you will be doing it on autopilot.
I recommend having a paper cheat sheet on your desk in the first days.