It may sound counter-intuitive to desire fewer incoming email messages. If you are out of work or trying to grow a business, email is one of those gates by which important opportunities may enter. So this isn’t about filtering out the good stuff, it’s about optimizing your ability to find it and act on it.
I recently told you that my email in-box was starting to feel more like a sluggish “to do list” than a sanctuary of productivity. Do you remember that?
This was highlighted in a post describing our mutual difficulties with follow-up.
And yesterday I shared the nuclear option for handling an unhealthy email in-box. What was your take on that option?
Then there was a post I wrote for U.S. News that suggested some new year’s resolutions for your career. That post included the following suggestion: I will send shorter and crisper email messages. These are much easier to write. They also result in better responses from the receiver. Makes sense, right?
Finally, after writing the U.S. News post, I saw the following in a press release from Intermedia, a business communications provider. They had just finished a survey on new year’s resolutions for communicating and published these findings from people just like you:
Get Organized: 61 percent of respondents pledge to keep their business emails and documents more organized in the new year
Respond Faster: 37 percent will try to be better about promptly responding to business emails and calls
Work After Hours: Only 19 percent of workers want to cut down on addressing business emails or voice mails during their time off work
So my summary on all this is that we are trying. Resolving. To be better at handling the massive oncoming storm of communication.
But wouldn’t it be better to avoid a swollen in-box altogether? If you said yes and would like to know how . . .
Here’s my “how to” on reducing the incoming email flow:
1. Stop sending emails. The fewer you send, the fewer incoming email message you’ll get. Instead, communicate by walking around. Or pick up the phone. Especially when there is sensitivity or importance in your message, it is always better to communicate more directly. Or, where appropriate, use less formal communication tools. A short text message, for example.
2. Use Twitter to communicate. Of course it is not private. But some transparency in communications might be a good thing. People will write smarter and shorter. Knowing the world is watching. And tweets are management-free. For example, I never have to worry about deleting messages on Twitter. They just float away. I’d love to see a company with an internal Twitter communication system. Where it is all out on the table.
3. Use rules to filter email. You can have emails from certain people go to unique in-boxes. Some you check hourly or daily. You can have messages you are only copied on go to an in-box you check less frequently. This way the more important and urgent messages more easily find your eyeballs.
4. Train people to reach out to you differently. In his bestselling book, “The 4 Hour Work Week“, Timothy Ferriss suggests checking e-mail twice a day. And then suggests some ways to educate people on your new practice. Like an auto-responder to set new expectations on your response time. This specific suggestion may not work for you, but his idea that people need to have the right expectations makes sense. So in your email signature say “Best way to reach me is (__________)”.
5. Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe to updates or change your subscription preferences. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Yahoo Groups all allow you to get the same message twice. Once online and once in your email in-box. Kill the e-mails and just check online for updates. If you are getting ten daily email updates and change each of those to weekly updates, you’ve just reduced 70 emails to 10. Some worry that unsubscribing makes you a bad person. A disloyal fan. If you are getting emails that you don’t want or need, it is OK to unsubscribe.
What are your ideas to reduce incoming email? Please share.
Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Work-Life Balance