For any working professional, email is both a blessing and a curse. It made asynchronous communication easy and accessible, but for most of us, email also means we spend a lot of unproductive time managing our bottomless email inboxes.
In 2024, it's time to take control of your inbox.
The email quagmire
Email has become the default communication tool in the professional world. However, its convenience is a double-edged sword.
A McKinsey study found workers spend 28% of their workday reading and responding to emails. This is a huge time investment, yet it’s still not contributing to productivity. Most of us still have cluttered inboxes, making it difficult to prioritize critical communications.
A cluttered inbox isn't just a personal problem—it affects your entire team and clients. When you're on vacation or a leave of absence, colleagues may need to access your emails. An organized inbox ensures they can find essential information without wading through irrelevant or outdated messages.
Why email isn't always the answer
Email's ubiquity masks its inefficiencies. It's not always the best tool for every type of communication. For instance, complex discussions can become convoluted in lengthy email threads, and urgent messages may get lost in a crowded inbox. Recognizing when to use alternative platforms is the first step in getting your email inbox under control.
For example, tools like Asana, Trello, Smart Sheets, and Monday.com are excellent for project management. They allow teams to track progress, assign tasks, and collaborate in a structured environment, reducing the need for back-and-forth emails.
Instant messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams are ideal for real-time communication, including quick questions or discussions that don't warrant a formal email or meeting. They also facilitate group conversations and file sharing, streamlining team collaboration.
Practical tips for email management
Once you’ve identified the communications that don’t have a place in your inbox in the first place, these tips can help you further refine your workflows.
Schedule email time. Allocate specific times for checking and responding to emails. This approach prevents emails from dominating your day and helps maintain focus on other critical tasks.
Practice notification discipline. Turn off constant email notifications. They are a major distraction, interrupting your workflow and reducing productivity.
Utilize inbox rules and filters. Utilize your email software's rules to automatically sort non-urgent emails into specific folders. This keeps your primary inbox focused on high-priority items.
Take advantage of the snooze function. Use the snooze feature for emails that require attention but not immediately. You can also use this feature to “batch” similar activities, such as scheduling meetings or handling billing questions. This helps you manage your workload and respond at an appropriate time.
Organize folders. Create functional email folders to increase your productivity when working in your inbox. Naming standards and subfolders are helpful to track down information needed in the future and during batch tasking.
Unsubscribe ruthlessly. Regularly unsubscribe from newsletters or updates that you no longer read. This reduces inbox clutter and saves time.
Transforming your email habits in 2024 isn’t just about reducing the number of emails you receive—it's about enhancing your overall communication efficiency. By choosing the right tool for the right task, setting boundaries, and employing smart email management strategies, you can reclaim your time and focus on what truly matters in your professional life. Let this be the year you turn your email from a burden into an asset.
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As Financial Operations for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Jenna is passionate about the administrative side of business –both internally and externally. Her primary focus is on the company’s payroll, human resources, and accounting.
Before joining Boomer Consulting, Inc.as a Solutions Advisor in 2018, Jenna owned a home health agency for three and a half years.