During the work day, we check email on average 11 times an hour, or every 5-6 minutes, for a total of 352 minutes per day across work and personal email. That’s nearly 6 hours of our day. Unless your job title is ‘email checker’ or ‘chief email officer’, this is quite a shocking amount of time.
We’ve already covered some key ways to reduce this time in our blog post on Thrive Global about prioritising availability over output, and in our post about timeboxing. However, if you’re not ready to commit to these big shifts (get in touch about our training if you are), there are a few simple things you can do to immediately reduce your email burden.
Get disciplined about unsubscribing.
We all end up on countless mailing lists – it’s an inevitable part of modern life. This means we end up getting dozens of unwanted emails every day. Unfortunately, our brain doesn’t immediately know that they’re not important, so we waste precious time reading the title, processing it and then deleting. It obviously takes more time to go into the email and unsubscribe, but if you commit to doing it for a week, you’ll see a drastic reduction in the number of emails coming in and distracting you. This is particularly important for reducing your digital distractions if you keep your email notifications on (not something we recommend!) Another way to deal with this is to set up a separate email address that you only use for online shopping, bookings etc.
Make your calendar visible to your team.
So many professional emails are around scheduling meetings, and it’s a completely unnecessary time waste. If everyone makes their calendar visible, the meeting organiser can and should use the scheduling assistant to find a time that works for the majority, and ask those who can’t attend if they can move their meetings, rather than going back and forth asking people when they’re free. If people can see what is blocking your time, it should be easier for them to assess whether it’s feasible for you to move things around.
Set up filters.
Any email in our inbox will distract us, even if we decided after reading the subject line that it’s not urgent. Setting up filters for specific subjects or senders (e.g. admin tasks, house projects) that go into a separate folder, ready for you to check at a convenient time, keeps your inbox more focused and reduces attention deficit.
Come off CC.
In the spirit of inclusivity and covering our backs, we often end up copying too many people into emails as an FYI. If you don’t want to be on a chain, I highly advocate replying all to politely but firmly asked to be removed from all future communications. Similarly, encourage your whole team of getting into the habit of only replying to the sender if all they’re doing is thanking them or acknowledging that they received the email.
Too many emails can become the nemesis of productivity, particularly as more of us spend an increasing amount of time working remotely. Applying these small changes can reduce the email burden and boost our focus, getting rid of some of our overwhelming digital clutter.