A healthy approach to workplace emails - 10 inbox busting tips

This blog shares top tips on how to better manage workplace emails, leading to reduced stressed and improved productivity and communication.

By the end of 2020 over 300 billion emails were sent every day. Maybe some days you feel as though you’re on the receiving end of most of them. Psychologists warn that email is a significant stressor. It rears its head time
and time again in conversations about what stops people achieving goals and change.

Email requires thought and careful management to safeguard wellbeing and general quality of life. According to McKinsey, the average professional spends over a quarter of his or her time reading and answering email. Originally heralded as a huge timesaver, it’s a potential saboteur of productivity, proactivity and wellbeing.

The science:

Email addiction and, indeed, nomophobia (smartphone addiction), are a very real threat. The dopamine high of receiving a message causes people to seek out content stimulation. It’s already apparent that constantly and instantly responding to email and other electronic stimuli ‘trains’ people to take a reactive approach to work and other parts of their life. However, it’s essential that people are also able to switch between reactivity and proactivity i.e. take steps to anticipate the future, thinking about and actively influencing or controlling a situation rather than simply responding to it.

10 inbox busting tips:

  • Over-checking: Save hours by simply cutting down on when you check your inbox. Make a rule to check email only every 60 minutes maximum – many advocate for just twice a day.
  • Choice: Whether you decide to check email outside of working hours, or not, is up to you. Make sure people know what to expect from you.
  • Notifications: Turn them off. It takes anything from one to 20 minutes to refocus after an interruption. Going ‘eyes right’ every few seconds is a distraction you could do without.
  • Inbox zero+10: To feel more in control and less stressed, have a weekly clear out of your inbox aside from a maximum of 10 live, actionable items. Do it, delegate it, file it or dump it.
  • Prioritise: Is it urgent and/or important?
    • High urgency, low importance – delegate, dump or say no
    • High urgency, high importance – deal with it
    • Low urgency, low importance – distractions; delete them
    • Low urgency, high importance – plan it
  • Purpose: Be clear in the subject line so you and your recipient can easily search for and retrieve the information. This also helps to ensure your email will be read and helps you focus on ‘why’ you’re sending this in the first place.
  • Clarity: Think before you write. Always start with ‘why’ then go on to what, how and what if. Write simply, briefly and succinctly in contemporary language, using bullet points as appropriate.
  • Write to aliens: Instead of assuming that your recipient knows what you’re talking about, imagine you’re explaining your point to an alien who would have no prior knowledge of the subject. You may have mentioned the topic previously, though people delete and distort information that’s not of interest.
  • Stop replying to all: Make it a habit for everyone to stop the endless copying in of multiple recipients. Write only to those who need to know. If you do copy someone in, explain why. Most cc-ing is an unnecessary contributor to stress, time stealing and gratuitous backside covering.

Bonus tip: Make positivity a golden rule. If your proposed message is negative, talk instead for a better, kinder result. Never write when angry – keyboard warriors do untold damage; you can never take it back.

If you’d like further advice or would like to speak to someone, please get in touch.

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