Productivity in the age of your daily email onslaught is probably the biggest work challenge most of us are facing these days. Who doesn’t dread their inbox on Monday mornings or most days? Yet, we’re all addicted. Some mind-boggling statistics about how much time you spend on emails each week is sobering. Sit down. The average person spends 28% of the workweek reading emails. 269 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2017 and that number will climb to about 320 billion by 2021.
In a recent poll, Adobe Systems estimated we spend 6.3 hours a day checking emails, with 3.2 hours devoted to work emails and 3.1 hours to personal messages. The study found “Americans are so concerned about keeping in touch they monitor emails around the clock, in socially unacceptable settings and during potentially dangerous times.” I just turned on my new “I’m Driving” setting as part of the latest IOS Apple update because when you hear that ping, it’s hard not to be distracted. Millennials may be the worst offenders, with some so “addicted to emails that half can’t even use the bathroom without checking their email.”
First a few hints. Categorize and review your emails by unread, move anything irrelevant to your deleted file (you can find it later and don’t’ stress if you have thousands of emails in that folder), flag key items to find them easily or refer to them as priority emails, and read newest to oldest emails to cut down on rereading long email dialogues. I also use a separate email box for personal emails, and an alias email name for routine business email notifications. This way they don’t clog up your main email box. Next, take real email breaks throughout the day to work on your projects with a 15-minute time out minimum, and most importantly, as you read your emails, keep a running to-do list and then prioritize the tasks. It’s always satisfying checking off a completed task. I use colored highlighters to cross things off.
I reached my own personal inbox tipping point after a very long business trip. It was obvious I needed help instead of wasting hours each day on emails. After doing a major workplace survey, five new tools, are now my own personal email productivity and time management favorites. All or a combination of them will help you gain more control over your work day and your personal life. They’re in order of which ones will boost your results the fastest.
If you like making to-do lists, and I do, you will love TeuxDeux. They’ve built a bare-bones, but visually compelling and highly usable to-do app: Use browser-based TeuxDeux at work/home and then take your to-dos on the road with the iPhone app to easily create tasks and lists, set schedules, and so much more. Create a to-do list as your read your emails. This reduces and organizes mailbox clutter along with organizational stress. As they say, “Yay for checking things off!” Caveat. It’s not free. ($3.99/month) and it’s not yet available in an Android version.
The dilemma of our time. Work-life balance. Time to analyze yourself. The is the app that literally come to your rescue. The way it works is by running securely on the background of your computer to track the time spent on applications and websites — giving you an accurate picture of your day. You then get detailed reports and data based on your activity. Industry praise is so high, PC Magazine even dubbed it the “best time-management app we’ve ever tested.” You’ll also find out how true the emails stats are and how to better manage your inbox.
Ever found yourself reading time sensitive emails where you suddenly need to scan a document while traveling, at home, or in the office? That was me on a recent extended business trip in Europe. Genius Scan suddenly became my scanner in my pocket. I can just snap a pic of a document, whiteboards, receipts, or business cards. It then quickly scans your documents on the go and exports them as JPEG or multi-page PDF files. A major problem solved anywhere in the world and especially when your Bluetooth scanner connection goes on the blink. One other benefit, it’s easy to send files to team members so projects keep going even if you in a faraway time zone.
I’m a self-confessed Post-It addict. I write thoughts from emails on to them and sadly then leave them all over the place. I needed an organizational solution. Ta-dah! Out for a few years, and a highly rated app, Post-It Plus gets your organized by letting you post digital Post-It notes on your screens. You can use it to remind you to do specific things at specific times, color-code them, group them into themes, and use your camera to capture something as a Post-It note. Most of all, I organize “Post It” thoughts from a meeting and consolidate them on to my to-do list.
As a creative, I often feel my best ideas slip away in a moment, often in the middle of the email quagmire. This app lets me capture, organize, and share notes from anywhere especially my very own desk. They even have a premium version which allows you to collaborate easily with team members from initial brainstorming to finished projects including synching across multiple devices. Their blog is also a source of endless productivity tips.
One last caveat. Don’t try and take this all on at once. It’s a work in progress. Start with changing you’re your inbox sorting process and adding key categories, then move on to one or two apps instead. Good luck.