We’ve all heard the old adage, “Time is money.” It’s as true today as when it was first coined. Be mindful of your time because it truly is one of your most valuable assets.
Yet trying not to waste time is easier said than done. One of the most likely causes of an unproductive day is the mismanagement of an email inbox. So, let’s consider a strategy you can use to help master your inbox and thereby better manage your time.
The simplest and most effective strategy I have heard about is the one I use daily: Try responding to incoming email just twice during the day.
Does that notion sound crazy? That was my initial reaction, but I can assure you it works like a charm. As far as I am concerned, it’s the ultimate email hack.
Twice-a-Day Email: Why It Works
Think about societal norms in terms of communications. In the business world, email and phone are the two most common means of communication. If you have an immediate need from either a vendor or a team member, aren’t you likely to pick up the phone? It conveys a sense of urgency.
The expected response time for an email received is somewhat less urgent. Generally speaking, the business world has an expected response time for email that is measured in hours, not minutes. For the average office, responding to email within 24 hours is reasonable.
The expectation for your office might be more stringent. I decided to try to get back to my clients within half a business day, which is why answering email twice a day became my standard. I look at my email inbox once at noon and once at the end of the day. I respond to all my incoming morning email at noon and catch any afternoon email by the end of the day. There is rarely a need to respond in real-time.
Noon and end of day are my favored times. Any two times during the day would probably work fine. When I come to work each day, I am intent upon completing a particular task. I want to focus all my energy for the most productive time of day (first thing in the morning for me) on that task.
I used to look at email first thing in the morning, and sometimes I would get sidetracked. Too often, the task most important to me that day still was not accomplished by midday. That bothered me. Once I committed to answering emails at two set times each day, all the email alert noises I had set could be shut down. I came to think as them as distractions to my productivity; they were interruptions to my train of thought.
I tell my clients that email is my preferred means of communication, but I explain how I manage my email and ask them to call whenever something needs immediate attention. It’s a system that people seem comfortable with, and it certainly has improved my productivity.
More Ways to Save Time
Here are a couple of more ways to save time spent responding to email.
- Have templated signatures for responses to frequent email requests.
For example, if you are getting LinkedIn requests from people you don’t know, you might have a signature template that reads something like: “Thanks for your LinkedIn inquiry. I am always interested in learning more about colleagues of my business connections. Who is our common connection point?”
- With customer orders, have a customized thank you email where you can insert the customer’s name and an authentic thank you.
Taming email is one of the surest ways to improve productivity – yours and that of your employees. As you find ways to improve, be sure to share them with your team.