List of tools and tricks to help manage email before it manages your day.
Just writing this, I’m very likely getting another distracting email notification. Whether it’s an annoying “ding” or a popup on my screen as I’m trying to work, email reminds me of all the other things I also have to do – with a little added urgency. It can get pretty overwhelming. For many of us, email is the biggest killer of our work productivity, yet we’re so reliant on it, it’s hard to stop it from hijacking all our attention.
After trying out a few different things, me and our team put together the following list of tools and tricks to help manage email before it manages your day.
1. Block notifications entirely
Every time you get distracted by an email notification, it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get refocused on the task you were working on again. Can you imagine what happens if you get a just a few notifications a day? Hours of productivity are lost just from distracting notifications, often completely unnecessary. Really the best way I found to combat this is to turn off my notifications entirely and silence my email app on my phone. It’s just a few simple steps for Mac and iPhone. If it’s important, I will get to it in a timely manner just like anything else. There’s no reason you need to be updated immediately every single time.
2. Schedule times to check email
One of my worst habits is constantly checking email to fill time or to do instead of what I should really be focusing on. A great way to stay productive is to remove any possible procrastination points – email is a huge one. You shouldn’t go cold turkey or off the grid, but rather limit and plan when you are checking email. Any more than two or three times a day isn’t necessary. You can even set I like to check mine in the morning to get the anxiety of all those things to take care of out of the way and then again right before I stop work for the day so after that I can truly “tune out”. Rarely is anything pressing enough to need an immediate response. If it’s urgent, they’ll call.
I did try a few tools that are out there to help manage email. One of the best I found that really works for me is SaneBox. SaneBox uses AI to help automatically filter and sort incoming emails into folders you can check later. It’s not “inbox zero” but it’s way better than trying to sift through a constant stream. You can get this set up right now for any email account. This is perfect for keeping a clear work/life balance. “Mine” folders are separated for personal emails and work emails by project, so I can see exactly what’s going on in each one. I’ve saved so much time trying to find the right email.
4. Avoid email in situations where you can use a more direct form of communication
One of my biggest pet peeves is the really pointless emails. You know the type of email thread that lasts for a few days but the “conversation” could have been taken care of in a matter of minutes on the phone or a video call. Especially when working with coworkers or in big collaborative projects, avoid the back and forth and just find another faster form of communication. Email isn’t great for collaboration and brainstorming either – a phone call is. If you’re working in a larger team, group chat platforms eradicate the need for email almost entirely and provide an optimal digital workspace for collaborating.
5. If you have to, organize team email with HelpMonks
If your team absolutely has to rely on email, don’t worry, there’s still some really great tools to help you manage email better. HelpMonks helps you organize incoming email by subject and assign incoming emails to different members of your team. This is great if you’re a project manager. You don’t have to put aside time during your day to try to forward, CC, and assign addressing emails to other members of your team. It’s automatically done. This is also helpful for collaborating on emails as a team. HelpMonks will also archive important threads for you and store them in one place for future reference. This tool saves you so much time tracking emails and tackling communication as a team.
Hopefully, these tips, regarding tools that can help you manage email, are as helpful for you and your team as they were for me!
Getting on top of one of my biggest distractions and managing my email in a much more efficient way has helped me reply to what matters and work on what matters. I really believe this is a huge key to productivity!