E-MAIL COMMUNICATION: PROFIT OR LOSS?
10 Surprising Ways to Save Your Most Valuable, Non-Renewable Resource (Time)
by Clarissa Rodriguez
(reprinted with permission)
Imagine that your email system is down for a week. Oddly enough, work still gets done: People discover new (old) ways to contact others and share information, and attention is only given to the most critical tasks and activities.
Now go real-time. Run this experiment and get ready to experience an eye-opener that will surely boost your bottom line.
Last year, more than 136 billion e-mail messages were sent daily. Poor email management cost businesses untold dollars in lost time, productivity, and focus.
On average, employees spend two hours per day reading and responding to unproductive, low importance messages. That’s a hefty 12 weeks a year. What would you and your employees each do with an extra 480 hours this year? Next year?
Here’s how to calculate the hidden cost of e-mail waste. First, time how long you spend at your inbox for the next three days, multiply by your salary, divide by 2,080, and add overhead. Next, extrapolate this cost to your work force and calculate it companywide.
With 24/7 business, information overload and instant everything, time is now the individual’s most valuable, non-renewable resource. By sending just 10 percent less email, you can vastly reduce everyone else’s volume.
As you rein in email across the company, you’ll see more focus and more completed projects that add to the value and the growth of your business.
So, how to remedy e-mail overload? Administer any part of the following across the business and, guaranteed, you will reduce work lead-time and individual overwhelm, free up resources and communicate more effectively as an organization.
Process the bulk of e-mails at set times. At most, check email twice daily.
- Turn off email while doing other computer work, especially with important assignments. This increases focus, eliminates distractions, and reduces interruptions.
- Expecting an important message? Turn off the auto-receive function, reminders, and sounds. Request e-mail as a conscious decision; enter as if on a search party, with a goal and a two-minute timer. This prevents getting hijacked and saves hours.
- Delete every possible e-mail. Ask three questions: Did I ask for this? What is the worst that will happen if I delete this? And for keepers: Will “doing” this move me measurably closer to my goals or my business’s goals?
- Scan and sort emails from the inbox into “action” and “project” categories: Must-Do, Nice-to-Do, Someday-Maybe, Read at Computer, Read Printouts, Project A, Project B, Client A, Client B and so on.
- Write clear, concise, and actionable subject lines and content. Include action required and deadline in the subject line, and edit the subject line when the topic changes.
- Agree on subject line protocol shortcuts, such as NRN means “no reply needed,” or use the subject line as the whole message: Meet 10am 4/15 OK?
- Send deferred replies. Type the response and schedule it to send a few days later. This buys time and creates space for important work.
- Avoid email back-and-forth. Sometimes it’s more efficient to pick up the phone to resolve an issue.
- Send short replies or, if the conversation has concluded, none at all.
Use this remedy to keep business objectives, not technology, driving your workflow and watch your profits grow. Now, imagine if you applied the same principles to all of your paperwork and electronic files…
Clarissa Rodriguez is president and master productivity architect at Clear Road Associate, Newton, and a past board member of the New England Chapter-National Association of Professional Organizers.