Defeating the Evil Empire of Email: 10 Tips for Leaders
In 2015, the number of emails sent and received per day total over 205 billion. According to the Email Statistics Report 2015-2019, this figure is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3% over the next four years, reaching over 246 billion by the end of 2019. The average worker receives 122 emails per day, but executives and leaders often face many more. In one study, Entrepreneur Magazine reports that the average leader spends 2 hours and 25 minutes emailing/texting per day. Just thinking about this assault on the leader’s time confronting these communications can not only drain time and bog down productivity, but it can drain a leader’s energy and creativity as well.
Here are 10 tips to deal effective with
- Balance email efficiency with general productivity. It may feel efficient to multitask and check emails constantly during the day. However, constant interrupting and multitasking reduce your productivity, especially when you need focus and concentration for analytical or creative thinking. Email distraction and overload are detrimental to the leader’s cognitive performance.
- Use your authority and wisdom. Announce your intentions to impose limits on email distractions. Establish a culture to emphasize focus and productivity, rather than slavery to email (and other) distractions.
- Consider the idea of Inbox Zero. This idea was developed by Merlin Mann, a productivity expert (Read more here). He suggests five possible actions for a message: delete, delegate, respond, deter, and do. You can devise your own system to reduce the email load. If you’d like to see him describe his system, go here
- Model the behavior you seek. Send less email. Use bullet points when feasible and list for questions or concerns to address. Clarify the purpose with the subject line. For example, Meeting, Announcement,
- Encourage and recognize others when they use the subject line effectively. Is the message FYI or Urgent? Is there a question or issue to be addressed? By when is a response needed?
- Set aside specific times to read and respond to email. Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” suggests developing a message stating why, how and when you will be checking and responding to your email with a note about who to contact if urgent assistance is needed.
- Impose an Electronic Lockdown when you deal with your email. Smart people can get a lot done when they focus, even for a few minutes. You will do more in less time when you put your phone on silent, reduce visual and auditory distractions, and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
- Delete and unsubscribe ruthlessly. Select the most valuable newsletters or organizations to receive and stop the information overload.
- Create a routine. For example, commit to responding within 24 to 48 hours and identify the best times for you to deal with email during the day. As a first step, delete spam and promotions and then, browse for and respond to urgent and important messages. Next, decide what messages can be forwarded or archived, and so on.
- Avoid using your email inbox as a “To Do” list. Instead, as soon as you see a task that needs doing, schedule a time on your calendar to work on it.
In order to remain productive and have consistent high performance, leaders need time and energy for analysis, problem-solving and decision-making, not dealing with 100’s of emails a day. Try one or two tips and feel the control and satisfaction of defeating your “Evil Empire of Email” dilemma.
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