When I was a kid, there was a television program called Why Don’t You? that ironically showed you activities you could do with your time rather than spend it watching the television. Their theme tune was Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead?
Well with last week’s post about batching up your email and this week’s post on shortening the batch, I am going to show you how you can finally Switch Off Outlook And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead.
Well for most of the day anyway.
Are You Wasting Your Life on Email?
On average an office worker receives 121 emails a day and sends 40 of them.
Let’s say that it takes you 30 seconds to read each mail and 2 minutes to write one. It’s going to take you 2 hours and 20 minutes to process your email each day.
I am not sure how long you spend on email, but from my own personnel experience, 2 hours 20 minutes seems a little on the low side.
According to the Huffington Post, U.S workers spend 6.3 hours a day checking email, 3.2 hours on work emails and 3.1 hours on personal messages.
Does this resonate?
It does with me, so let’s get smart, kick off a time saving process and refine it as we go.
Inbox (211) Zero
The objective of each batch is to get your inbox to zero. The most efficient way to do this is to get Outlook to most of the hard slog for you.
Automate the Hell Out of It
I would like you to create a single email folder called Archive, this is where you are going to put all your emails every batch. Don’t worry, if you ever want to refer back, you can use the powerful outlook search function.
Now, let’s try and create Outlook rules for each type of email communication you receive.
Organisational changes, corporate events, corporate news, etc arrive randomly in your inbox every week. Create a rule that automatically moves these to your Archive folder.
I bet you are cced on hundreds of emails and I guarantee a high percentage of these are just ass covering. Create a rule that automatically moves all these to your Archive folder.
You may get a lot of email from systems. Create a rule that automatically moves these to your Archive folder.
Are there others you can create rules for?
Right that should have got rid of a high proportion. Let’s deal with the rest manually.
Apply the 3Ds to each meeting invite –
- Am I needed to make a decision or is my input critical? – If not delegate or decline
- Delegate – Can I ask someone to go on my behalf to represent me?
- Do It – Accept the Invite
Addressed to You
Now all you should have remaining are emails you may need to act on. With these emails, I want you to ask yourself –
- Do you need to take any action? – no, then move it to your archive folder. Do you want to read emails about this subject again? If not, create a rule to move them to your Archive folder automatically.
- You need to act, but can you delegate it? – yes, then ask someone to deal with it on your behalf and move it to your Archive Folder. Add an action to your ToDo list to thank the person you delegated it to sometime in the future.
All you should have left are the emails you have to act upon. I don’t want you to act now though. I want you to add it to your ToDo list and prioritise against the other priorities you have on your precious time.
Ok your inbox should now be clear. Everything should be in your Archive folder or on your ToDo list. If not, we have a fault in the process and you need to tinker.
If you feel uncomfortable, then scan your Archive folder for 5 minutes maximum to see if any subject stands out.
Respect Others Inbox Zero
Ok you have got your inbox to zero, now respect your colleague’s inbox. If you need to send an email or reply to one, then I want you to close it out with a quick call instead.
Key advantages –
- Reduces the number of emails that go back and forth
- Clarifies the true question/action behind the mail rather than assuming
- Builds a rapport and relationship with the sender
- Can improve your mood as you interact with others
If you must send an email, then please word it in a way that reduces the back and forth flow. The author of a book I read this week, summed this up well. Email is not a live chat.
Let Your Fingers Take the Strain
To make you even quicker and processing your emails, learn to use the keyboard quick keys,
- Learn and use the standard Outlook quick keys
- Set up your own quick keys to move emails to your archive folder using quick steps
Over the last two weeks I have shown you an efficient process that allows you to get your inbox to zero in the least amount of time.
Use it, refine it, let me know if it works for you and Switch Off Outlook And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead.
P.S – Please share this with a colleague as we could all use help with email overload.