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Email Productivity

The title of this post is a contraditction. The sooner you realize that emailing is not actual productivity the sooner you'll find yourself emailing less and being productive more.

This being said I feel I can share some tips for how I'm able to receive hundreds of emails yet keep my inbox fairly organized.

  • Learn to love gmail.
    The spam filtering is the best I've ever seen. Even if you're not in love with the web interface the reduction in noise is a must-have.
  • Scan to delete
    When I'm reading email subjects I'm usually take a quick pass and delete all messages that I can delete based on the subject and sender.  This first pass can quickly eliminate Facebook alert noise, Google+ notes, LinkedIn replies, Eventbright registrations, etc.
  • Unsubscribe from Noise Newsletters
    I try to actively unsubscribe from anything that I haven't read in the last couple months.  If you don't take the time to unsubscribe the messages keep coming and distracting you.
  • Don't respond too quickly
    Most senders don't expect a response too quickly and a surprising number of messages resolve themselves in a few hours.
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts
    In gmail press (?). In Windows Outlook it's the Alt Key. Learning a couple shortcuts like select, delete, archive, label can make things fly.
  • If you're writing more then a few paragraphs something is wrong.
    I try to keep my writing too the point and I avoid word-smithing.  If something needs clarification a deeper design, specification, or presentation then a phone call is likely more efficient.
  • Use the add-ons
    Boomerang is an incredibly useful service it allows me to delay reading or sending a message until needed. The same company has an email game that improves email productivity through game mechanics.  I use Boomerang to efficiently read and schedule emails and I use the email game to get through messages that I've procrastinated.  Two other services I use are Raportive and Google Labs "Canned Response."
  • Out of sight, out of mind
    I try to keep my inbox messages on one screen so I can see everything I have to process. If it's not on the screen it's in a task list, archived or deleted.
  • In Search we trust
    I use labels very minimally. (Usually for priority) It takes me time to label, star, flag, tag or otherwise mark a message. It general it takes almost no time to search for something. I think Google could vastly improve email search but even in its current form it works much better then any tagging or organization structure.
  • Email Less
    Seems obvious but it does work.  Getting back from a vacation I can get through all key emails in an hour or two. If that's true then simply spending less time in email will make your emailing habits more productive.


This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.