Getting Your (Real) Job Done Means Outsmarting Your Email


If there’s a topic that comes up in nearly every discussion about business technology, it’s efficiency.  Every company is looking for opportunities to become more efficient and productive – to do more with, at the very least, existing resources.  The fact is, there are so many areas of inefficiency for most workers – business decelerators.  They are elements of work days that pull us away from productivity... the things that detract from our ability to actually do our jobs. 

They are things like looking for contact information, locating documents (including the correct versions of revised documents), scheduling meetings, figuring out the best way to reach people when you need them and based on their availability, and more.  Unified Communications and features like mobility, presence, screen share, and more have helped reduce some of the efficiency in real-time communications.

For many of us, though, email is the biggest decelerator of all.  It’s not that email isn’t useful – of course it is.  But, it’s become overly burdensome thanks not only to spam, but also colleagues and customers overcompensating by sending an egregious amount of redundant or unnecessary emails. 

Washington Post writer Caitlin Dewey wrote about email:  “Email is like the dirty laundry of the Internet.  I do not mean that metaphorically.  It’s the burdensome time-suck that everyone hates but that remains essential to functioning.”

She is spot on with her assessment.  We need email, but we all hate it (though I, for one, prefer it over most of the team collaboration tools out there – maybe because everyone seems to use a different one, making email the one common thread between them) and it takes up far too much of our time.

Studies suggest that 25-50% of our time at work is spent checking, reading, responding to, and deleting email.  Unless your job function is predominantly email-based, that’s spending an awful lot of time doing something other than what’s in your job description.  On the high end, it amounts to:

  • 4 hours a day
  • 20 hours a week
  • 1,000 hours a year
  • Almost 42 days a year
  • 1,792 days over your working lifetime
  • Almost FIVE YEARS of your life!

But, what can you do about it? 

Well, there are things you can do to help.  For instance, you can make your outbound emails more effective and clear, so you help their recipients act on them efficiently. 

Dmitri Leonov, SaneBox co-founder, says one of the best things senders can do is to use subject lines better.  The subject line is an opportunity to let others know exactly what your emails contain and how important they are – including whether they can be left for later.  If people know which emails are lower priority, they can act on other more efficiently. 

Calls to action are also important.  By letting recipient know what your expectations are for response or other actions, you help reduce confusion and increase chances of faster and appropriate responses.

There are other send-side tips Leonov has, as well as some software-based strategies that SaneBox has developed that help its users keep their inboxes less cluttered.  It’s something we could all use some help with.  Leonov shared his tips during a Webinar I moderated recently.  I encourage you to take some time to check out what he has to say.  He has some valuable advice for a problem we all face.

Edited by Erik Linask

Group Editorial Director

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