Spend Way Less Time on Email & Free Up Your Work Day
There are three things I dread as an introvert…
#1 The pop-in. (Just stopping by!)
#2 Answering phone calls. (Text or Voxer plz!)
#3 Opening my inbox to a ton of emails. (Ughhhh nooo.)
I just recently started paying attention to how much time i’m spending on screens each day. While some stats make me cringe, (“I really spend THAT much time on Voxer?!”) others make me proud like getting my email down to 15 minutes a day or less during busy season.
I remember when that definitely was NOT the case and I literally groaned after opening up my inbox.
We aren’t just wasting our time by checking it so often, but we’re wasting everyone else’s time by responding in lengthy emails as well.
So how to make it stop?
7 Ways to Spend Way Less Time On Email
Step 1: Declutter your Inbox Regularly
The best way to easily do this is sign up for Unroll.me. This is an essential!
It rolls up all of those non-urgent emails into ONE daily digest email so you can decide what you actually want to open and what offers to pass on.
Through Unroll.me you can also unsubscribe from everything you don’t want with a few clicks. Then if you start subscribing to more things, they’ll check in and let you add them to your roll up so your inbox can stay clear of clutter.
Step 2: Filter the Usual Emails
After awhile, some of the more regular emails start to almost be invisible to us. There are online statements, sales, receipts, log-ins, website updates, etc. that don’t need you to take any action.
What are those emails that you regularly ignore or that you open, skim over and then immediately close?
These are the emails you need to filter so that you don’t even have to see them, but they’ll still be saved or archived in a spot you can find them if you need to.
I do this by creating a label/folder for them in Gmail.
Then create a filter so incoming emails with set specifications will be stored in that folder/tagged with that label.
(Click the Gear Icon in Gmail > Settings > Filters & Blocked Addresses > Create New Filter
Then decide what you want the filter to do. I usually make my emails skip the inbox, mark as read, mark as important, and of course, apply the label. You can see some of my examples in the image above.
This honestly has made a HUGE difference for me.
I couldn’t believe how much time I was wasting on these emails by clicking open, close, open, close all day every day.
Step 3: Create Canned Responses
What are the top 3-5 things you’re always responding about?
If you find yourself answering the same questions over and over, create templates and save them in Google’s canned responses.
First you’ll want to make sure they’re enabled.
(Click on the Settings Gear Icon > Advanced Tab > Enable)
Then you can write and access your canned responses right in the email area by clicking the three dots.
Instead of racking your brain for the right wording each time, craft a perfect response and save it.
Or you can do it in real time. So the next time you answer a frequently asked question in an email to someone, save that response. You’ll be allowed to tweak details before you use it for the next person.
By doing this, I stopped spending 2+ hours answering questions during busy season.
Step 4: Limit Your Email Length
No one wants to read a novel of an email. Even worse is feeling like you have to return an equally lengthy email because you received one.
Show that you value each other’s time by just limiting your notes to three sentences or less.
These days everyone expects a response right away. You can keep more people happy by responding but keeping things short and sweet.
Afraid of seeming rude? Attach this note to the footer of your emails:
Why is this email three sentences or less? http://three.sentenc.es
Step 5: Touch It Once Rule
Do NOT check your emails when you’re waiting, standing in line, or aren’t able to reply.
Only check your mail when you can actually respond.
And for every email you open, touch it once - Respond, archive or delete it. That’s it.
NEVER let emails just sit in your inbox.
Seeing them there adds visual stress. You know you should respond but haven’t yet.
If you have to think about it, write a quick response that says, “Let me think about it and get back to you.”
If you want to archive something but you'’re worried about forgetting, set yourself a reminder or task in Asana to check into things when you have time.
That way you won’t have to keep viewing, reopening, and thinking about the same email.
Inbox zero for the win!
Step 6: Turn off Non-urgent Notifications
When you’re doing focused work, turn off your email notifications. Keep them off all the time if your job allows.
Too much work to turn them off and on? Maybe try Kiwi for Gmail. Kiwi lets you check email right on your desktop and you can just toggle on the notifications for the emails with one click. So when you really need to focus, you aren’t distracted by that little pop up box.
Step 7: Start a Friendly Competition
Struggling with self control in checking emails? Challenge a buddy to a competition to keep each other accountable for a week.
One example I tried was not checking email until after lunch everyday. My sister and I challenged each other to both do this so we could start the day with focused, productive work. Guess what, it worked!
The added motivation of a contest will keep you on track until it’s a good habit.
What email steps do you need to try so you can free up your day?