Email overload - how to take control for better productivity
More and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of burnout at work. One of the main areas that increases that strain that can lead to burnout is the seemingly relentless pressure of email. Emails are often the one thing we can’t escape, even after we’ve left our workplace and gone home for the evening.
A recent survey from Adobe found that we spend a total of 5.4 hours checking and responding to emails every week, and findings showed time spent on our emails isn’t just reserved for the office.
We check emails at work, at home, at the gym, in bed and even when nature calls. All of that means that preventing email overload is a hugely important step - not just our productivity at work but but for our sanity away from the office too. Checking your inbox could just take over your life. So how can you take full control of your email habits and embrace better productivity in the process.
Manage email expectations
Email recipients these days expect a fast response and companies who fail to deliver can often lose customers to faster responding competitors. Knowing what’s expected in today’s technologically driven world is a great place to begin. Fast Company recently published some interesting findings on email response times:
“Unlike in the days when you had to get to a computer and use a dial-up connection (thus tying up your phone line), most people do respond to email quite quickly. Boomerang’s analysis has found that the average response time is 23 hours, but that’s because there is “a very long tail of people responding very, very late,” says Moah (e.g., the guy who went on vacation and didn’t put his auto-responder on). The point at which 50% of responses have been sent is much sooner: two hours. Other research has found similar numbers. A paper from researchers at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering found that the most common email response time is two minutes.”
Replying in two minutes is certainly going to exacerbate the symptoms of email overload, not relieve them. Replying in a timely manner is of great importance but be sure to manage recipients’ expectations so they aren’t disappointed. Setting email alerts detailing mailbox checking times is handy and will let your recipients know that a response is on its way.
Adopt healthy checking practices
Email checking preferences differ vastly, even in the same office, but by standardising your approach as a business you can manage expectations and prevent email overload company-wide. Providing rules on the healthy management of emails and etiquette for replying is important.
It can also be helpful to set times for email management. And that information you could be shared with recipients in your email alerts. By sticking to pre-scheduled times you can make sure you get the rest and recharge time you need to take, without getting bogged down by email communication.
Mindfully manage your emails
Applying mindfulness to your email management practices is an excellent way to prevent email overload and subsequent burnout. The STOP technique can help you find a more mindful approach to emailing. This involves first, very briefly, Stopping, then Taking a breath, Observing the content of your thoughts, feelings, sensations and impulses, and then Proceeding. Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed. Giving yourself a moment to re-read an email can help ensure you’ve really got what the other person meant to say so you can go ahead and craft a thoughtful, informed response.
Looking for more tips for mindful emailing? Read our recent blog post on that very topic for further advice.