Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of emails in your inbox? When you look at your Smartphone screen, you’re daunted by the task ahead: 203 emails to respond to! And more will be pouring in…

Although email is a great tool, it can also be a productivity downfall when not efficiently managed. According to 2012 study by the McKinsey Global Institute, we spend on average over a quarter of our time reading and responding to emails.

Your problem is not unique as most businesses use email as their primary communication. Nonetheless, amongst all the systems and processes that a company requires, email management is more often than not completely overlooked. Follow these 7 simple steps to cut through this infinite amount of information and efficiently make critical business decisions.

  1. Remove email notifications.

It takes a minimum of 30 seconds to recover from a minor distraction and regain the level of focus you had prior to the interruption. If you receive 200 hundred email notifications per day, that’s one hour and 40 minutes of distraction that can be instantly eliminated!

  1. Schedule email time.

Schedule times to read and respond to your email and add it to your calendar. If you feel anxious to not respond on the spot, include a statement like the following in your signature block: “Due to high workload, I am reading and responding to email twice daily, at 8:00am and 2:00pm MT. If you require urgent assistance, please contact me via phone at 555-000-0000.”

  1. Triage, delete and unsubscribe.

Although a large portion of emails can be deleted immediately (promotions, newsletters, etc.), unsubscribe from these senders so that they don’t bury important messages in the future.

Quickly browse through the rest of your emails to triage them and locate the critical messages that need to be addressed first. Mark them with a star or throw them into a “Critical” folder.

  1. Keep your inbox clean.

You want to retain messages related to key aspects of your businesses such as clients, vendors, projects, etc., in organized folders to easily find them when needed. Do not hesitate to use subcategories. The more sophisticate the filing system, the more efficient. If the subject line is not accurately reflecting the topic, edit it before filing to optimize its searchability.

Depending on your level of comfort with technology, you can also add rules and filters to automatically populate your various folders.

  1. “Canned” responses.

The term “canned” response has been coined by Google to reference these predetermined responses to common questions. If you are not using Gmail, you can simply outline your standard responses and save them as drafts or even as signatures. They will be ready to send in just one click.

  1. No question, no answer.

Not all communications are fit for emails. To avoid endless email thread, topics that require discussion or involve emotions are best handled over the phone or in person. Get rid of the fluff and write emails in the form of statement to shorten the communication cycle.

And no “thank you” email! The sender will follow up with a text or phone call if he/she wants to confirm receipt.

  1. Adopt the hashtag habit.

Last but not least, clearly identify when an action is required. Within an organization, on average one third of the emails received are internal. You may find yourself drowned as a Cc in a chain of email, potentially missing out on a call to action. Use a hashtag in front of the name to indicate that the person’s action is required. It will make it easy to search through an email thread (I will have #Adam from my team coordinate the presentation).

These small changes will yield big results by minimizing the noise and maximizing your bottom line. Your business is creating a success story, not managing your inbox.

Author: Carine Dieudé, Partner, Director of Strategy, specializes in growth strategies, systems and operations, for small and medium size businesses.

Altima Business Solutions, “Empowering You To Focus!”

Altima Business Solutions is a full service Management Consulting Firm specializing in helping business owner maximize efficiency, profitability and company value to improve the lifestyle of employees and management.

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