Have you ever considered how your bad email habits might be affecting your productivity?
On average, we spend thirteen hours a week on email. The typical person checks their inbox 77 times a day, sends and receives more than 122 emails per day, and spends 28 percent of their workweek managing and organizing their inbox.
While spending more time on email might make you feel productive in the moment, it’s probably a detriment to your focus and the work you actually need to get done. Resolve to kick bad email habits to the curb this year and claim back your time and sanity.
Try eliminating these seven common email habits:
Checking Your Inbox Constantly
When you deal with email, are you a reactor or a batcher? Most of us, unfortunately, are in the “reactor” category, where we fall into the trap of constantly going through messages that come in throughout the day. “Batchers”, on the other hand, block off time in their calendars to power through their inbox, and then ignore it the rest of the time. Reactor’s work suffers since they are constantly interrupting their tasks to check messages, while batchers can stay in the zone and focus on work, distraction-free.
Consider breaking your “reacting” habits by scheduling time to check your emails on purpose. When you plan a specific time to take action in your inbox, you’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll gain instead of wasting the day reacting to every message. In your interim period of being a “batcher”, test different times of the day to check email that complements your schedule, workflow, and energy levels.
When you’re actually checking email, try implementing the Two-Minute Rule as well, which states – if the next action you need to make on something will take you fewer than two minutes, do it right now. “Two minutes” is arbitrary, but using this principle will help hone your decision-making skills and help you get things done quickly.
Here’s how to use the rule on your inbox:
- Sort your inbox by subject.
- Read the subject lines of each email.
- Make an assumption on if the action you need to make will take two minutes or fewer.
- If it will, open up the email and deal with it right now.
- If it won’t, flag the email to deal with it later.
- If you’re taking action, do the next thing you need to, depending on the content of the email.
- Repeat until you’ve cleared all your two minutes to done items.
Turning On Email Notifications
If your email app is constantly running in the background all day and flooding your computer screen with notifications, you’re setting yourself up for a state of consistent distraction. Every new email notification that pops up on your screen disrupts your focus – even if you don’t even open it. Studies report that it can take up to 20 minutes to recoup full productivity after a notification comes in. Add that to the hundreds of new emails you might receive over the course of a week, and it’s hard to imagine ever having an undistracted block of time to actually get things done.
You don’t need a grand announcement for every new message you receive while you’re busy getting actual work done. Break this email bad habit by simply exiting out of your mail app and disabling push notifications across all devices. It’s time to fight email distractions and create an uninterrupted, creative, and focused space to work on the things that really matter.
Vague Subject Lines
Super specific, informative subject lines are key for so many reasons. First of all, if you’re trying to contact a busy person, you want to make sure your email doesn’t get immediately moved to the trash because it doesn’t look appealing to open. When it comes to reading, reviewing, and most importantly, replying to email, you need to make that as easy as possible for your recipient. That starts with the subject line – when people glance at their inbox, they’re much more likely to act on an email if the subject line entices them to do so.
A good subject line should precisely state what your email is about just by reading the subject line, like a headline for a newspaper article would. For example, if you were trying to relay information to a coworker about a project, a satisfactory subject line might look like this: “Web Design Project – Feedback Needed by 2/23.” Making your subject lines as clear as possible helps the recipient understand what your email is about before opening it, and helps everyone involved organize their inbox as well.
Learn more about how to write an effective email subject line here.
Using Subject Lines That Don’t Match The Message Content
We’ve all seen email subject lines gone terribly wrong — “Fw: Fw: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Requesting Information.” Sometimes, an email thread gets out of control and neither party knows what’s going on anymore.
Pulling up an old email and continuing a thread with new information is a huge email faux pas. Replying to old messages from the same sender with a message unrelated to the previous discussion and subject line leads to confusion for the recipient. Create a new email with a relevant subject line as soon as the content of the email chain changes.
Responding Immediately Without Purpose
The idea that you need to immediately respond to every notification you receive is dangerously distracting. Even simple answers like “Ok” or “Got it, I’ll get back to you later” are sure to break your focus.
Sending quick responses that have no real purpose only adds to email overload for all parties involved. Instead of gaining a reputation as someone who replies quickly, focus on a reputation of someone who sends thoughtful, value-adding responses that move the conversation forward. Try to only reply to emails when you have the energy and time to craft a proper response.
In Unsubscribe by Jocelyn Glei, she applies Newton’s Third Law of Motion to email: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So to put it plainly, the more email you send, the more you receive. Don’t get caught in an endless email loop – only respond when you actually have something meaningful to say.
Not Including An Email Signature
Your email signature is in essence, your introduction. It tells the recipient of your email who you are. It should include your name, title, company name, website, social media handles, and contact information.
Sending an email without an email signature doesn’t give a recipient much insight into who you are and if you’re a legitimate sender. It also comes across as unprofessional. Fix this bad habit by using a service such as WiseStamp, which will generate an email signature for you.
Learn how to create the perfect email signature here.
Over-Copying People On Email Threads
Hitting “reply” too much can cause serious email overload for everyone involved. When sending an email, analyze who needs to read the message you’re sending. Then, only include those individuals in your reply.
Still unsure? Ask yourself if you would call someone to share the information in the email. If not, simply exclude them from the thread. Their overflowing inbox will thank you.
Resolving to break bad email habits this year will positively affect your work life, productivity, and sanity. Remember, not everything is urgent – especially email. Your cognitive resources are limited, so make sure you’re utilizing your mental resources for the important tasks!