Email is a double-edged sword: on one hand, it has revolutionized business communication, making it faster and easier than ever to get a message across. The other side of that coin, however, is that inefficient use of email can lead to tons of wasted time and lost productivity.
Encompassing much more than just a message inbox, email clients now come with calendars, task checklists, reminders, live chat functions, contact directories, web-based phone calling, spam folder auto-sorting, plain text and HTML options, and much more. With all these tools at your disposal, “email” now means much more than just sending messages to a recipient who can message you back. It encompasses a suite of tools for you to become incredibly efficient—if you don’t get bogged down by some of the classic time-wasting pitfalls.
It just depends how you use it. This guide will help you avoid the email doldrums, and make the most of this ubiquitous business tool. No matter what email client or web browser you use, use these tips from our productivity experts and achieve total email freedom!
Train (and Trust) Your Assistant
Trusting your emails to your assistant will free up a massive amount of your time. Being able to focus only on high-priority emails that are most important and absolutely require your attention is a surefire productivity booster. Smart delegation, however, requires that your assistant be well-trained to handle as many of your email-related needs as possible.
To train your assistant, start by coaching them through a week’s worth of emails. This will give them a solid foundation from which to know what to prioritize, what to respond to, what to delete, and what to save for later.
Here’s a tip: instruct your assistant to respond to all emails beginning with “I am ___’s assistant,” or similar in their subject or message header. This is a tipoff that the email is important, and comes from trusted parties relaying immediately relevant information.
Of course, entrusting your assistant with your e-mail account requires that you share the password with your assistant. For security reasons, make sure passwords for other accounts are different, so that access is carefully controlled and you don’t have the same email password as you do for your bank account. You want to have a unique username and password for different services.
Use Mass Unsubscribe Services
There are many freely-available personal productivity services you can use to streamline aspects of your email. One of the most useful provides a mass unsubscribe option for your shared address book. This feature allows you to unsubscribe from many mailing lists at once, rather than having to do each one individually.
Any subscriptions to email lists that aren’t absolutely vital should be considered noise, and should be unsubscribed from right away. In addition, lists that overlap or include recurring emails are a death blow to creativity. Unsubscribe from lists that do this as well.
Create a Filter for VIP Emails
There are certain people—think colleagues, friends, certain clients, or family members—that you may want to designate as “VIPs” in your webmail client, with a special inbox filter for separating messages from these senders.
If your mailbox allows for features like cancel send, be sure to take advantage. This allows you to cancel sending a message to a recipient within a certain timeframe. This comes in handy after noticing embarrassing last-minute mistakes in the email that will cost you time. Not all email hosting providers provide this feature, however.
No Secret Email Accounts
This should go without saying, but you shouldn’t have any secret additional email accounts or hidden email servers that your assistant doesn’t manage. While it may be tempting, additional emails kill productivity and defeat the entire purpose of having an assistant to begin with.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a personal email and a work email. The point is, you keep personal messages away from the work email address. And to make sure you stay efficient and productive, you should never check or otherwise interact with your personal email during work hours!
The dawn of electronic mail marked a major turning point in the advancement of business technology. And modern-day email clients come with more features than ever before. But as with any tool, inefficient use of email can slow you down instead of making you more productive. Stay on top of it with some best practices, however, and you can ride this time-saving innovation to higher profits and increased office productivity.