When it comes to work tasks, email is perhaps the single largest time consumer. It’s totally necessary for the smooth running of most companies, but at the same time workers typically spend around 39% of their work week on email.
Partly due to the sheer amount of time spent on them, email is often perceived negatively. But, it doesn’t have to be seen a waste of time. In fact, businesses simply can’t afford for emails to be poorly handled, given the number of hours that are spent servicing them. Email shouldn’t lower productivity, as has been suggested in some research. There is a smarter approach. With the right combination of inbox management and professional writing, email can significantly improve individual productivity and enhance the functionality of work teams.
It’s time to turn email back into the productive tool that it was meant to be!
Email is still as popular as ever for business communication, and for good reason. The problem is not email as a tool. The problem is a complete lack of focus in specific areas when it comes to dealing with emails. Let’s start with key issue number one. Collectively, we send and receive more than 280 billion per day.
Due to the sheer volume of emails in circulation, and the fact that email is used for nearly every purpose from marketing to arranging important business contracts, it goes without saying that smarter email requires greater organisation.
There are many different types of email, and you don’t have to respond or even read all of them. You can start by blacklisting email addresses from any and all spam and unwanted mail that you get, whitelisting email addresses from colleagues and clients, and unsubscribing from unnecessary email newsletters.
Aim to get to ‘Inbox Zero’ if possible, and maintain this by keeping on top of your emails, deleting them or archiving if needed. This could be a mammoth task at first, and requires daily upkeep thereafter, but it will bring much needed clarity to your email, laying the foundation for a more productive professional life.
Deal with your incoming emails in batches. Pick a couple of times a day when you handle emails, or at least pick 1 – 3 hour chunks of the day when you don’t handle them. This way you stay in control of your own productivity and can focus on the tasks that you need to complete.
You need to set firm boundaries when it comes to email, so that you don’t check your inbox dozens of times a day and lose hours context switching. Despite this, it’s also crucial that you respond to important emails on time, especially if you are emailing clients or colleagues who work in different countries. If you are the CEO of a company, consider utilizing staff to scan through emails and forward only crucial and time-sensitive requests.
Effective Email Writing Improves Productivity
Email management is only half of the picture. All staff within a company should also be well trained in professional email writing. When emails are written with absolute clarity, there will be less back-and-forth between colleagues and less time wasted. Smooth communication leads to a more productive workforce.
Check out our professional email writing guide for more advice on how to write an effective email, but for now here are top tips that relate specifically to improving productivity:
- Avoid Huge Chunks Of Text – Emails should generally be clear and concise. The main point of the message should be obvious, and usually there should only be one topic per thread to avoid confusion. Use bullets or highlight key points in longer emails.
- Use Media Where Relevant – A great advantage of email, is that you can use nearly any media and attach documents, such as screenshots, videos and word files. These features can boost productivity when they are relevant to a project or task.
- Personal Touch – Avoid anger and misunderstandings by adding the occasional personal message or compliment. Be aware of cultural and individual differences in colleagues and clients who you email often. Do they prefer their emails at a certain time of day? Do they like broad, detailed emails or punchy ones that get straight to the point? If unsure, ask them.
- Use Searchable Subject Lines – Don’t use generic subject lines like “Hello”. Summarise the content of your message or thread in a few words or sentence, and use keywords that the recipient can search for in the future. This improves organisation, and also lets the other person know the importance of the message, and how immediately they should attend to it.
- Use Email Tools – Consider using tools to enhance email communication in the workplace. Simple misunderstandings can cause a lot of chaos and confusion, and sap the energy from your team. Email tools like ours offer live feedback and improvements to ensure harmony is maintained and productivity is improved.
Email should be a useful and powerful tool. If it becomes a drain on productivity, then this is a reflection of the way it is being used (or misused) in your company. With proper email management and professional quality email writing, you can overcome the potential issues and enjoy the benefits of a healthy company culture where email is used to improve productivity and complete real tasks.
Use our Outlook Add-In to create better business emails. Our real-time business English language suggestions and reader insights will coach you to more effective emails, written in the preferred style of your readers.