End Email Misery

The topic of Email Courage struck a chord in many conversations last week. So this week’s theme is all about having the courage to manage email and not reduce productivity or take over your life! The top three suggestions from myself and others are:

  1. Close email and keep the priority on getting work done
  2. Take control of email
  3. Pick up the phone more often to resolve issues

1. Close email and keep the priority on getting work done
Yipes! I can see you screaming at the suggestion to turn off your email. The point of working is to complete essential tasks, make good decisions and provide great products and services—not get stuck in email for hours every day.
     Every day set your priorities for work that must be completed before you open up your email. Update your daily and weekly to-do lists with an app you like. Identify the top action items or key conversations that have to be completed today or next week, in priority order. Block out the hours needed to complete the high priority tasks today. Then open your email and respond to the highest priority emails only. If you know you can’t complete a response that day then flag it. You can send a very brief message as to when you think you can respond if you think it is necessary.

2. Take control of email
My sister works in a tech company and recently told me she does not go over 100 emails in her inbox. She deletes anything low priority, unclear or informational. She keeps it under control because she hates feeling guilty about not responding. Feeling guilty distracts all of us from focusing on the task at hand. Other people I know use autoresponders, and a voicemail recording that clearly say, “I am unlikely to respond to email unless XXXX; for urgent matters. the best way to reach me is text or phone call.” This kind of message clearly let’s me know how to reach this person.
You can also reduce email time by keeping your email responses short. Do not write novels. Respond to specific and clear requests with brief clear statements. Unclear messages will lead to delays and more back and forth. Cut the number of words in emails by 50% and cut a lot of the time.

3.Pick up the phone more often to resolve issues
If an email raises issues or challenges that are better resolved in a conversation, then have the courage to pick up the phone and call. If you are anxious about an issue potentially escalating, then arrange an in-person meeting before that issue hits email. Prepare for the phone call or meeting in advance by bringing the relevant facts. Stay calm. Clarify and explore ways to resolve the issue so both of you can move ahead.   

Above all, avoid responding to or sending emails that leave room for misinterpretation and possible animosity. Quickly and simply focus on constructive end goals for projects, work and relationships.  

Use email as a tool you control:
1.Close email as needed and prioritize to complete items on your current To Do list
2.Take control of email
3.Use the phone more often to resolve issues
If you’re already in control of your email, you deserve a medal! 
Please share this email with others who suffer from email guilt or frustration, and share your comments and suggestions.

Coming up next: What does steady growth mean for small and mid-size businesses?