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#TChat Recap: Finding Email Productivity At Work

Finding Email Productivity At Work

Being productive is an admirable feat. Finding email productivity while at work is just as admirable nowadays. While there’s always plenty of office activity taking place during the course of a day, we often find ourselves limiting our productivity with unnecessary processes that cluster our time and effectiveness. When emailing first made its appearance we were all excited by this communication tool. We saw endless possibilities of how we could improve our communication and workplace efficiency. Now, email has been around for over 30 years and the excitement it once brought seems to be fading softly away. But as always, there’s still hope for eliminating or reducing the clutter that constant email bombardment has created for us. This week, our community was joined by: Marsha Egan, CEO of The Egan Group, and a leading authority on email productivity, who taught us that email toxicity doesn’t have to blacken our workdays.

As #TChat’s discussion progressed we began to understand that emails trigger a very important and common effect within us all. We are reliant on technology because we rely on information. Understanding why emails cluster our workdays is simple.

Information is everything. Whether it’s reading a quick text message from a friend or interrupting data, we place a high-level of importance and urgency on information. Information is what makes the world tick and it’s what makes us tick. But because there is so much information flying around, we have to think carefully and process it all to monitor how we communicate, especially with how we write and send emails. It is recommended that we:

Sometimes, less is better and easier to grasp. Being specific and transparent is everything in the world of social media. Well, this same concept applies when writing emails now. Treat an email as if it were a tweet. Obviously your message will require a little more content than 140 characters, but it’s important you communicate the importance of your message and its urgency. Remember, that’s why we still have office phones. But when it comes to improving our email communication then let’s start with a couple of simple steps.

Managing email productivity is also about managing the time we spend sorting through emails. Time management begins with creating a schedule. Same idea applies when managing your email inbox, except you should think about other variables involved. Find the time to:

At the end of the day, email productivity is about communication and managing the entire process. It’s not about trying to create more work or complicate office processes. Emailing has to transcend to a much simpler form of communication. Email is a communication tool and not a collaboration tool. We mustn’t mistake the two and treat emails as a be-all and end-all tool. Email was created to enhance communication and make it easier for us to work. It can still accomplish this when we manage the kind of information we’re sending out and its level of output. Remember, less cluster in our emails means getting our productivity back.

Checkout Our Insights On Email Productivity From #TChat!

What’s Up Next? #TChat Events Kicks Off On Wednesday, Nov. 12th!

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We’ll be discussing How Global Megatrends Are Impacting Engagement Strategies during our Social Hour on #TChat with our guest host: Mark Royal, Senior Principal at Hay Group who organizations design and implementation of employee engagement strategies.

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 7pm ET / 4pm PT — Our weekly live broadcast runs 30 minutes. Usually, #TChat-ters listen in and engage with our community on Twitter during this time. Checkout this week’s BlogTalkRadio show preview here: How Global Megatrends Are Impacting Engagement Strategies.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 7:30pm ET/ 4pm PT — Our Social Hour midpoint begins and ends with our highly engaging 30 minute Twitter discussion. During this time, we’ll take a deep social dive about our weekly topic by asking 3 thought adrenalizing questions. So join in on the fun during #TChat and share some of your brain power with us (or tweet us @TalentCulture).

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Want To Change Your Email Culture?

Have you ever stopped to think about whether you are managing your email or whether it is managing you? Have you considered that question for your entire department or business? Is yours a positive email culture or a workplace drain?

Easy Yet Difficult

Taking control of your organization’s email culture is easy, yet difficult. Understanding the targeted behavior is easy, getting people to change behavior – even a little bit – can be the bigger challenge. This challenge is twofold.

  1. Getting everyone to buy in to having a productive email culture
  2. (And more difficult) – Working with them to change and then engrain collective, productive habits that are followed daily.

Repetition creates habits. Repetition of time-sucking practices creates bad habits. Time-wasting habits become engrained the more email a person handles. And the productivity of the organization collectively suffers.

Changing Habits Takes Focus

The important point is to recognize that changing those habits is not a one-time event; it requires ongoing reinforcement. Anyone who has ever changed a habit will attest to the focused attention that is needed to engrain a new habit. Why would email habits be any different? The ability to keep positive practices present, to reward the “right” behavior, and model that behavior are assets in helping managers shift their email cultures. Focused attention to the shift in behaviors is key to reclaiming the productivity that you may not have realized you lost.

More on habit changing by Science Daily…

Herding Cats

Adding to the challenge is that no two emailers have the same time-sapping habits – in a company of 200 employees, it is like trying to herd 200 cats. If everyone used the same wasteful practice, a well-managed office could correct the drain rather quickly. That’s why focus on shifting the culture is key.

The Three Best Practices

With so many emailing practices out there, are there some that, if changed, have the most impact on productivity? Yes. We believe that there are three that, if collectively accepted and implemented by your group, will bring noticeable productivity gains. These are featured in more detail in our free white paper, “Email Culture – Are your Managing It or is It Managing You?” These three culture shifts are the keystone of our popular “Clean Out Your Inbox Week” email productivity campaign, which is featured in Chases’ Calendar of Events, always the last full week in January.

They are:

  1. Never use email urgently; telephone or visit if a response is needed in under 3 hours.
  2. Visit your inbox to check email no more than 5 times daily.
  3. Keep your inbox clean. End each inbox viewing session with an empty inbox.

Before you laugh off these suggestions, consider the increased productivity and focused attention that can be gained by implementing these suggestions office wide and what they might mean to your business’s productivity.

1. Never use email urgently. Using email for urgent matters creates an environment where people feel that they MUST view each email as it comes in. When one person in authority sends an urgent email, co-workers “learn” that they cannot shut their inboxes down to focus on other work. They need to be open, dinging and flashing “just in case” an important email shows up. Most managers don’t realize how costly interruptions can be because of the continual disruption to focus.

Tip: We like to suggest that ANYTHING requiring a response in less than 3 hours be handled by a visit or a phone call.

2. Check Email Only Five Times Daily. Interruptions eat away at your time, and time is money, so it is prudent to reduce the number of times you reactively view and sort email – and not only you, but everyone in your business circle.

We already know that each interruption takes you an average of 4 minutes to recover – to “get back in the zone” after the interruption. Allowing yourself to be interrupted by just 15 emails a day has just cost you 60 minutes (15 emails x 4 minutes) of recovery time. If you shift to proactively checking your email only FIVE times daily, (5 times x 4 minutes) you just saved yourself 40 minutes – each day. Multiply that times everyone in your business circle!

3. Keep your inbox clean. There are many reasons that a clean, or empty, inbox is the third of the triad that will enhance your company’s collective productivity. By taking control of your work and not letting that inbox draw you in, you are more able to work on the truly important items that will advance your business and your collective bottom line. When your inbox is empty, your virtual workspace is open. All of this enables you to plan and execute your day in a proactive way and effectively take charge of your work. More thought about this from Real Simple…

Here’s how:

This simple distinction holds one of the great keys to e-productivity. “Sort” rather than “work” your inbox. Many people confuse sorting emails and handling emails. They think of them as one task, but they are not. Each time you go into your inbox, it should be to sort your mail, not handle it. And each time you sort, the email should be deleted, handled, delegated, or moved to a folder so that it can be worked in its correct priority.

The Collective Impact

Your best results will come when your entire business unit collectively embraces the importance of a positive email culture. These concepts, once understood, need to be embraced, applied, and perpetuated.  It is worthy of attention at the highest level.  And once those become new productive habits, it makes the way for further refinement and expansion to more time-saving habits.

Marsha Egan, CSP, PCC, is CEO of The Egan Group, Inc., Nantucket, MA. An ICF Certified Professional Coach, she is a leading authority on email productivity. She works with companies who want to recover lost time and money due to wasteful email practices. Her recently released book and eBook, “Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-Mail Excellence,” is available on Amazon and on her website at http://InboxDetox.com.

photo credit: vagawi  via photopin cc