With more than 281 billion emails sent every day, it is no surprise that email overload is now a significant cause of stress. Researches from the University of British Columbia conducted a study over a two-week period where some of the participants were instructed to check their email only three times a day and the remaining participants were told to check their email as much as possible for one week. The following week the groups switched roles. Kostadin Kushlev, the study’s lead author, concluded, “our findings showed that people felt less stressed when they checked their email less often.”
As email is an integral part of day-to-day business life, sorting the essential emails from useless and irrelevant spam is critical for any professional looking to move forward in their career while maintaining their sanity. Below are five pointers on how to make email more efficient to reduce stress and boost productivity.
1. Schedule Time to Check Your Email
Selecting specific times of the day to check your inbox allows you to see your upcoming work and create a to-do list without feeling overwhelmed. “A large amount of research shows that multitasking actually impairs performance and productivity by slowing people down and depleting their cognitive resources,” Kushlev said. “Email increases multitasking, thus fragmenting our attention and contributing to our feeling that there is so much to do and not enough time to do it.”
2. Make Inbox Organization a Daily Task
Schedule a couple of minutes each day to make sure everything in your inbox is in its proper place. Doing this should be the first task in the morning and the last one before you leave for the day. Doing so will increase your productivity in the long run and give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at the start and end of your day.
3. Use Labels and Folders to Tidy Up Your Inbox
Think of your inbox as your virtual filing cabinet and organize it like you would a physical filing system. Create folders for different teams, clients, projects, etc. and keep your filing processes flexible so as your business grows, your organizational system can effortlessly progress with it. The last thing you want is for work to get delayed because you had to redesign your internal filing system completely. If you’re unsure about where to file something, think FAST – File, Assign to the appropriate team member, Store for future use, or Trash.
4. Filter Spam
Your time is valuable, and you don’t want to waste your attention on unsolicited emails from promoters, advertisers and marketers that don’t provide value. Apply a program to your email that will automatically filter out spam and – as a bonus – one that can help monetize your attention. This is an area that my company has focused significant attention on over the past few years, as we believe everyone should be compensated for their time and attention.
5. Keep Separate Professional and Personal Email Accounts
In theory, having your work and personal correspondence consolidated into one inbox seems super convenient. However, in reality – it is not. As precious as your cousin’s newborn may be, their picture doesn’t belong in your work email and it will clutter your newly organized inbox. Merging your non-work and work emails also makes it harder to separate your two lives, which is not healthy.
Email is a necessary evil in work and “play”, but it doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence. When managed appropriately, email can make you a more efficient, productive and successful individual in both your business and personal lives.