I spoke with a group of managers last week who said that they thought email was one of the biggest hindrances to their personal productivity. It is a sentiment shared by many. We are overloaded with emails; some are important, others not so much. As individuals and organisations we need to change our relationship with email to help us increase our productivity rather than make it worse.
Below are some bigger picture ideas on reducing the emails that you receive.
1. Auto-delete savior. You go away on holiday, get back and you have a mountain of emails to go through. Many of the issues raised have already been solved and information become redundant, or you didn't even need the email in first pace. Some organisations have taken steps to remove this problem altogether. If you email an employee at German car maker Daimler while they are on holiday you will get a message something like this -
"I am on vacation. I cannot read your email. Your email is being deleted. Please contact Hans or Monika if it's really important, or resend the email after I'm back in the office. Danke Schoen."
Do you have corporate email policy envy at this ingenious idea?
2. Fall in love with the phone again. When Abbott Laboratories found that employees communicated almost entirely by email they trained employees to rethink how they used different communication tools. If it was something requiring immediate attention, the phone should be used. For things that didn't need an immediate response, use email. This reduced the pressure on staff to be constantly in their email inbox and enabled them to focus on their core tasks.
3. Send less email. If you want to receive less email the obvious people to blame are the ones sending you the emails. But as with so many things change needs to start with yourself. By sending less email you will reduce the mails you receive in two ways. Firstly the less emails you send out, the less you will get back. So send less, cc less and you should see your inbox reducing. The other affect will come from people who model your behaviour. Through sending less emails you will start to influence the communication culture of the company. This is especially true the closer to the top of the organisation you sit, as your habits filter down to the rest of the organisation.