Take a moment to reflect on how much time you spend in your email inbox each day, compared to how much time you spend actually working. How many of those emails even yield positive results?
Sevenshift CEO, McKinsey senior adviser, and former McKinsey partner Caroline Webb says that if you’re like most people, you’re probably wasting hours every week. Thankfully, she has some solutions, she writes in her book “How to Have a Good Day,” a collection of career best practices she’s learned in her 16 years as a consultant.
Here are four simple techniques that, if used correctly, can profoundly change your workflow.
One of the worst things you can do to your productivity is keep a tab open for your inbox, so that your eye is consistently drawn to any change in the email count.
As you switch from task to task, in this case from your work to your inbox, your brain is expending a limited amount of energy refocusing its attention. For nearly everyone, this information overload exerts the brain and causes performance to suffer.
'Instead, 'batch' your emailing so that you process emails a few times every day, not a few times every minute,' Webb writes. Consider bookending your work day with email checks, and checking again after lunch.
'Just as our brain wastes time switching from tasks to email and back to tasks again, it wastes some time by flipping between different types of emails requiring very different types of cognitive response,' Webb writes. That email with your boss isn't of equal importance to the calendar invite to a happy hour.
Make use of your email client's filtering features, whether that's assigning types of emails to different tabs or folders.
Separate emails sent to you directly from those in which you're CCd, and also separate out things to read when you have more time.
Procrastination is one of your biggest enemies when handling emails. As soon as you open one, decide what to do with it.
Webb points to author and consultant David Allen's 'four Ds' from his book 'Getting Things Done.' As soon as you open a message, you have four options:
- 'Do: Make the decision and respond.'
- 'Delegate: If it's something that can reasonably be handled by someone else, forward it on.'
- 'Defer: File for future action or reference. Send an 'I'll get back to you' response if needed.' Webb notes that she does a weekly check to ensure that one of these doesn't get lost forever.
- 'Delete: If none of the above applies, delete.'
The simple task of arranging a coffee meeting can easily turn into a frustrating back-and-forth that wastes both sides' time.
Instead of destroying your productivity with a series of indecisive emails, get into the habit of reducing ambiguity and offering several options for times, locations, and deadlines that work for you.
If you're messaging multiple people, give them enough time to respond so that someone doesn't chime in late and set the plans back.
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