How would you like to finally conquer your email overload?
Look no further, in this article you’ll be able to achieve inbox zero once and for all.
- The biggest time-waster knowledge workers experience today is the same time-waster that we experienced five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, probably 20 years ago, and what is that? It's email. Email is the single biggest time vampire that any of us face, it's a place that we can waste huge amounts of time. But it's also a place that we can gain incredible productivity if we can master our inbox. That's what we're gonna be taking a look at today. Four things you can do right now, very easily, that will help you master your inbox, recapture time, and make you far more productive. Does that sound fantastic? It does indeed, and I will show you today on Dotto Tech. Steve Dotto here, how the heck you doing this fine day? And today, we are going to take on some of the biggest bottlenecks, some of our bad habits that we almost all do in email, that if we can shift those habits, we can become more productive. Now, the things that I'm gonna show you today we've shown you before in the past. You've learnt them from other people in the past, but they are the sort of things that we need to keep on reinforcing, and I will promise you one thing. If you only do one of the things that I'm gonna talk about in this video, if you only embrace one of the habits that I talk about today over the next month, you will be more productive. You will get more done, you will spend less time in email and more time doing other productive things. So what are they? Well, let's begin with one of the number one problems that we tend to have as knowledge workers today, and that is overchecking of our email. Now, for the last few years, there's been a kind of revolution where a lot of productivity experts have been teaching us that we should only check our email once or twice a day and never check it first thing in the morning, and there's all these rules that they're putting in place that a lot of us have a lot of difficulty in agreeing with for a variety of reasons. Now, I'm not gonna sit here and tell you when to check your email, and I'm not gonna sit here and tell you how often to check your email, but what I will tell you is the average knowledge worker checks their email 15 times a day. Which, if you stop and think about it, is about every 30 minutes in a working day, and it seems somewhat excessive, does it not? Now, here's the insidious nature of checking your email too often, is it's not necessarily the time you lose every time you go in the inbox and check. That is pretty much self-explanatory as far as the challenge that it creates. But here is the insidious nature of that. Every time you interrupt what you're doing and go and check your email, and then go back into whatever project you were working on, you lose focus. You lose momentum. Now, studies indicate that it takes us up to 23 minutes to recover to a high level of productivity from any interruption, and so we are self-inducing interruptions through the day by stopping and checking our email every 30 minutes. It takes us up to 23 minutes to get focus back, to get back concentrating on the task at hand. That is a tremendous amount of lost productivity. So what do I recommend? Well, maybe you can start by just checking your email on the hour, once every hour. That's going to reduce, for most of us, the number of times we check our email down to six or maybe seven times a day, and if you can reduce it even more, it's better. Now, I know, there's a lot of resistance to this, because of the fact you say, "Well, wait a minute. "My customers, my boss, my team, they're relying on me "getting back to them in a timely manner." And of course, there are certain jobs that you have to be checking your email more often. But studies indicate that the average customer doesn't expect an email reply within an hour when they send an email. 11% of people is the percentage of people that expect you to reply very quickly, and you can train your tribe. You can train your people to expect you to reply to your email a little less on demand by just setting up an auto reply saying "Steve here, I only check my email every hour, "I'll get back to you next time I check it," or I check my email twice a day or three times a day. You can gain control, so the first thing you can do that will gain a significant amount of productivity is check your email less frequently. I know it's a challenge, but you can do it. Before we go on, I know that a lot of you have the desire to clean up your email, but the problem is that you're so far behind that when you look in that email inbox, you see this mess, you see thousands and thousands of email messages clogging up your inbox, and you don't know how to get out from under the burden of this colossal email inbox that you know is full of opportunity, full of different responsibilities, and it just haunts you as kind of a nightmare sitting there just looming over you. I recognize that a lot of people find themselves in that exact situation. So we created a course, a mini course, called three steps to inbox zero, which is designed exactly for that purpose. For people who have overwhelming inboxes to come up with a technique for cleaning those inboxes out over a fairly short period of time, and while you clean it out, developing the best habits and practices so that you never again find yourself buried in your email. You'll find links below to this free mini course that we have available. The second problem that we have with email is the one that I think is the biggest problem. Maybe I think it's the biggest problem because it's my biggest weakness, and that is inbox overload. Having too many email messages in your inbox. Now, one of the holy grails of all productivity experts is something called inbox zero, which is a bit of a misnomer. Inbox zero is what for most of us would think is means that we have absolutely no messages in our inbox, but that's not actually the case. Inbox zero really means that we have white space at the bottom of our email inbox, meaning that we, by having a quick glance at our email, have the control over our entire environment, and there's not a lot of hidden messages below the fold, kind of lurking beneath the horizon, that cause us all sorts of stress and anxiety. There's a whole philosophy around the concept of inbox zero and how if you can have white space at the bottom of your inbox, it's very liberating and really reduces the amount of stress that we experience. But part and parcel of that is also the fact that if you have too many messages in your inbox, you don't necessarily know what you dealt with and what you haven't dealt with, so we tend to open the same email multiple times. We open it, we read it, we close it, and then we forget that we've dealt with it or we don't remember exactly what we're doing with it, so we open it again. And Harvard Business Review has done studies on it, and they indicate that the average person loses about 27 minutes a day because of inbox overload, because of email messages being opened multiple times. And that leads us to the biggest tip that I think I can give you today, that says one thing that you learn to do, if there's one habit that you create for yourself in email, is that is the touch once policy. I call it the ruthless email rules, and here's how this works. When you open an email, you are making a commitment to deal with that email. That email has to be a solution, then, not a problem. You have five things, and five things only, that you can do with that email once you open it, and choose one of the five. The first, respond to it. Obviously if you respond to an email it's been dealt with, it's been taken out of your inbox, perfect. That is the best scenario. The second thing you can do, if you don't need to respond to it, is you can archive it. You can send it to your archive so it's stored for future reference should you need it, but it's not in your inbox any more and there's no temptation to open it again when you don't need it. If you go looking for it you can open it, but you aren't going to browse past it again. The third thing is delete it, which is very closely related to archive, except it's been dealt with and it doesn't need to be saved. Delete it, that's the best thing that we can do with an email. The next two are far more subtle. They are for emails that you need somebody else to work on for you, in which case you can delegate it. Take that email, forward it to someone else. Now, it really helps if you have some sort of an email management system that allows you to track other people working on the same email and report back, but delegating it is an appropriate thing that you can do, it's one of the five. And the fifth thing that you can do is you can defer it. There's gonna be times when you open an email and you don't have all of the information you need to respond right away. Maybe you're waiting for some numbers to come from Accounting or for feedback from somebody else before you can apply to that email. Rather than leave that email in your inbox where it haunts you and you might accidentally open it again and waste time, instead what you can do is you can send it out of your inbox but have it return to you. Tools like Boomerang, Gmail has it built in now, this feature to be able to send an email message out, to defer it, and have it reenter your inbox as a fresh email at the appropriate time when you can deal with it. So if you can do one of those five things, either respond to it, archive it, delete it, delegate it, or defer it, if you can develop the habit of doing that with your email every time you open an email message, you are then moving the ball further downfield in your business. You are doing something productive, and you're spending your time in email getting things done rather than just kind of wasting your time by opening the same email, reading it, thinking about it, closing it. What a colossal waste of time. And here's kind of where I want to just kind of editorialize just for a moment with you. A lot of us think because of the, email is getting a bit of a bad name, to be perfectly honest. It's a place that we think of as a real time-waster, so consequently, we're starting to have a very negative attitude towards email, I think as a society. But realistically, you're not wasting time in email if you are actually getting things done. If you're communicating effectively with your clients, if you are accomplishing your business goals and objectives, then email is still a tremendous tool. It becomes a negative when we start wasting time, when we start opening the same email message again, leaving it, and then closing it. But if you can focus, if you can concentrate and get things done, do one of the five action items, the ruthless email rules, if you do one of the five every time you open an email, oh my gosh. Your productivity and your success will skyrocket. The third place we lose time in email is clinging to old habits. A lot of people like to organize their email and organize their lives by files and folders, and they spend a lot of time in email creating folders for all of their projects and moving the appropriate emails manually into those folders, and then later on, when they need information on one of those projects, navigating to those folders and visually scanning through those folders to find the email that they want to deal with. Now, that was fine in 1998, when Windows 98 did a terrible job of handling search in email. But search in email should be much better on any system that you're currently using. Certainly I know in Gmail, that I use, search is very good. So you need to stop creating folders and manually organizing your files in physical folders a la 1998. Instead, join the search revolution and just archive your messages, put them all in one big folder, and learn to use search effectively to find the emails that you're looking for when you need them. If you can master that, you are gonna gain a tremendous amount of productivity each day. And finally, the fourth thing that I wanna talk to you about is when email is inappropriate to be used. One of the biggest places that we lose a lot of time is communicating with our team, because with our team, we typically have nested email messages with multiple people included in the distribution list, and there's a whole bunch of res and a whole bunch of comments, and reading through internal emails becomes just a quagmire of information and lost opportunity and time. Instead, if you can get your team, if you can get your business moving its internal communications from email to a better communications manager, a tool like Slack that's designed for team-based communications, if you can do that with your internal communications and then retail email for external communications, you are gonna be far farther ahead again. So those are my four keys. Every time I post a video or do a webinar on email overload, the vast majority of the people who participate feel that they have very little control over their email or they're barely in control. So if you're one of those people who feel that email is something that haunts you and you feel barely in control of, don't worry, you are in the majority, not in the minority. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't take action and get control, but don't feel guilty and don't beat yourself up over the fact that email has gotten the better of you. I hope that you found this video today to be useful, and if you really wanna kinda dive in the deep end and improve your own personal productivity, then I've got one other suggestion for you. Every week here at Dotto Tech, or almost every week, we do something called Webinar Wednesday, which is a free training tutorial on some productivity topic or on content creation. There'll be links below, but why don't you check out Webinar Wednesday? We teach you the best techniques to get more out of your technology, to become more productive, and to become a better content creator. It's free, we do it almost every single week. I think if you've enjoyed this video, I guarantee you will enjoy Webinar Wednesday and find value there as well. If you enjoyed this video, do me a favor. Give us a thumbs up, if you're not subscribed to this channel, subscribe to the channel, and ring that notification bell so that you hear when we upload new videos. And if you think this video is something useful that somebody else could benefit from, then please, by all means, share it with your friends. Until next time, I'm Steve Dotto. Have fun storming the castle.
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