Based on how busy everyone is, it appears obvious that your team is working hard and efficiently…or so you think. Suddenly you hear an exasperated sigh, or someone starts complaining over MS Teams or Skype about how overwhelmed they are. They’re clearly stressed and it’s affecting their ability to focus. Though these are competent people on your team, time and again there’s one factor that continually trips up even the most seasoned professionals: email management.
When we consider what it means to master “email management”, many of us think it’s just making sure we read every email at some point, or that we are constantly hitting refresh so that we’re responding as quickly as possible to achieve that famed Inbox Zero.
But email management is more than just that. Email management is being in control of your inbox, so it doesn’t control you. Email management is ensuring you’re not surprised about communications that were temporarily ignored, or permanently forgotten. There are best practices that can help your team be at the top of their game so they can accomplish their daily tasks. If you or your team are struggling with email, or you’re getting feedback from your colleagues that they’re having trouble staying organized, then this guide is for you.
Follow these email management best practices at work, and watch your team thrive on their newfound skills.
1. Get on the Same Page
It’s hard, especially with a new hire, to jump into the deep end of a new company’s process. They have their way of doing things, and sometimes it can be different from department to department. Without having a style guide or a way to get everyone to follow the same process, it can be that much more difficult for employees to do things the way that works for your team, department, or company as a whole.
That’s why it’s important that you codify your process. If you can show everyone on the team – from new hire to current employee – how things are done, then everyone will have the same reference point and can follow-through accordingly.
Explain to your team how you use folders to organize your emails by client, area of practice, priority, or by categories. In some environments, it may be beneficial to the team to tell them which clients (actually) take priority. By leading by example with an organized and controlled inbox, as well as by being proactive, you’ll set the rest of your valued team up for success.
2. Do Trainings
Speaking of being proactive, you should incorporate email training into your onboarding process, as well as when new processes are implemented. Yes you can write out a guide and that helps, but there’s nothing more beneficial than having someone there to show you how to do something. Even though, at this point in their lives or career, many professionals have been using email for years, rarely are professionals ever taught how to properly organize their inbox. This leads to stress, overwhelm, and burnout. To promote healthier relationships with email, at minimum, having a video library where you walk through the process step-by-step will increase the ease at which learning something new will happen.
The advantage of video, too, is that you don’t need a manager or someone with more responsibility constantly doing the same training over and over. You’ll have a video reference, and if there comes a time that information needs to be updated, they can update it then. But after that it’s just the employee following along with the video, and your manager has more time to do the important tasks they need to get done as well – they’ll be available to answer any questions, should they arise.
It’s a win-win.
3. Establish Times to Not Check Email
Yes, we’re all adults, but people also thrive on structure. If you have your team establish set times when it’s encouraged that they don’t check their emails, then this’ll help reduce the risk of being overwhelmed by their inbox. It’ll also help your team mitigate being chronically distracted because they’re constantly looking for that new notification. That distraction takes them away from the task at hand, and can even disrupt their flow, hurting their productivity (or stressing them out).
What do we mean by establishing times to not check email? Well, three very specific points here.
- Best practice is to find blocks of time in which you can conduct focused work. Create a company culture that supports, say, 45-minute blocks of uninterrupted work. During this time, professionals are encouraged (even expected) to turn off email and enter a state of flow.
- Consider creating a team policy (or company-wide policy) that nobody is to read or respond to emails between a specific set of hours. Perhaps it is 8:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m. every weekday. Maybe 7:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m. every day. Find a block of time that works for you, your team, and your collaborators. And most importantly…
- Lead by example. Whatever best practices you and the team agree to implement per the above suggestions, it’s imperative that you lead by example. If you’re reading and responding to emails during the time defined as a “no-email” time, then your team will lean on your actions versus the policies in place and feel even more pressure to do the same.
So establish some ground rules that’ll help them stay on track, and you’ll find your team being more efficient than ever. You’ll probably even find morale improves too!
This is just the beginning of your exciting email organization journey. There are so many different ways of approaching email, but we’ve created an entire system that takes people with even the most unruly inboxes (yes, we once encountered an inbox with over a million emails in it) and turn it into a tamed beast.
This complimentary 45-minute webinar will help you learn how to feel in control of your inbox, be more responsive to important collaborators, and reduce your anxiety and stress. Tame the Email Beast!
ARTT™ demonstrates time-saving techniques within Outlook primarily; however, the concept is platform-agnostic. It’s about teaching your human habits connected to technology (whether Outlook, Gmail, or AOL Mail…ok, nobody uses AOL Mail anymore, right?).
Register for your favorite date today and I look forward to having you at the program.