Improving your email habits can drastically increase your productivity. Like any new approach, these take focus and practice. But after awhile, they will become habits that support you.
1. Check email only at scheduled times for a specified amount of time. Twice a day for 30-60 minutes works well for many. Unplug until the next scheduled time.
2. Unsubscribe relentlessly. Make sure you receive only the things you really want to— and do—read.
3. Reduce the amount of routed email (i.e., cc’d from coworkers) to only that which is essential.
4. “Slash and burn” on your first pass through your inbox. Use the second pass for replies and other follow-up actions.
5. Empty your inbox every day and keep it that way. Delete most and file the rest.
6. Include all of your contact information in your signature—phone, fax, website—so that others don’t have to hunt for this information.
7. One topic, one subject. Change the subject line when conversation turns to another topic, and break up multiple topics into separate emails for easy filing and recall. 8. Count to five before clicking “Send.” Make sure your email is clear and represents what you really want to say to avoid a lot of back-and-forth later.
9. Include in your replies the original context of the email so you (and others) don’t have to hunt for it later.
10. Resist the temptation to check your email more than your scheduled times! It’s a simple step but has a profound effect on productivity.