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13 Mar

Nine ways to reduce the inflow of e-mails

Datum: 2014-03-13 10:08

The amount of e‑mails you receive in a day can some­times be daunt­ing. For some of us they arrive in greater num­bers than we are able to with ease cope with.

The e‑mail undoubt­ed­ly attracts our atten­tion, tends to make us feel stressed and com­pete with the to-do-list for our focus (and also tends to win against it).

It is easy to feel that we have no con­trol over this con­stant inflow and that we sim­ply have to prac­tice pro­cess­ing the e‑mails faster. 

But, there are sev­er­al things we can do to reduce the inflow.

This is what we can do
Here are nine ideas of what we can do to reduce and decrease the num­ber of e‑mails we receive:

  1. Be spe­cif­ic in how you phrase your own correspondence
    • Avoid verbs such as fix”, solve”, do”, deal with” and such.
    • Be as spe­cif­ic as you can when refer­ring to times and dates. Sug­gest both a date and a time as ear­ly as pos­si­ble in a cor­re­spon­dence con­cern­ing for instance a lunch-date.

  2. Add as few receivers as pos­si­ble for the same e‑mail and only cc: mes­sages if it is an emer­gency. With few­er recip­i­ents there are few­er peo­ple who can respond to your e‑mail. There will also be few­er par­tic­i­pants in a pos­si­ble dis­cus­sion over e‑mail that might be the result of the mes­sage you sent.

  3. Do not send so many e‑mails your­self. When you are about to e‑mail some­one, ask your­self: Could I pos­si­bly ask this in anoth­er con­text when we meet any­way, instead of e‑mailing now?”

  4. Set a rule for your­self that you will try to pri­mar­i­ly call the per­son you wish to com­mu­ni­cate with and if this is not pos­si­ble, e‑mail (pro­vid­ed that you do not need to attach a doc­u­ment or a link).

  5. Unsub­scribe from mail­ing-lists that send newslet­ters you do not read anyway.

  6. Avoid writ­ing mes­sages such as Have a nice week­end”, since you will undoubt­ed­ly receive a reply say­ing You too!”. (Sure, it is nice, but if we are striv­ing to have less inflow, this is yet anoth­er e‑mail we can do without.)

  7. Imple­ment an internal-Twitter”-tool such as Yam­mer at your com­pa­ny. Allow this Twit­ter-tool to replace all the infor­ma­tion­al e‑mails which are not cru­cial­ly impor­tant, but only con­tain infor­ma­tion that can be good to know”. Approach this tool with the atti­tude that you do not have to be up to date with it at all times. You can for instance leave it open at the bot­tom of the screen and then read when­ev­er it is convenient.

  8. Use as few ques­tion marks as pos­si­ble in your e‑mails. When you are about to end a sen­tence with a ques­tion mark, ask your­self if you can rephrase so that it becomes more of a state­ment than a ques­tion. The few­er ques­tions you ask, the few­er answers you will receive.

  9. Use ser­vices such as Doo​dle​.com when you need to find a meet­ing-time with peo­ple out­side of your com­pa­ny. Each par­tic­i­pant can eas­i­ly indi­cate when they are avail­able, from which the ser­vice will sug­gest pos­si­ble meet­ing-times. This will rid you of long and cum­ber­some e‑mail-con­ver­sa­tions along the lines of Can you meet up on Tues­day after­noon?” No, but how is Wednes­day?” Not a good time, I’m busy. How about next week?” Sounds bet­ter”. Ok, are you free after lunch on Thurs­day?” No, we have a board-meet­ing then, but I could make time in the morn­ing.” I have a phone-con­fer­ence with some­one in France then. Fri­day?” et c…

Less flow through the e‑mail inbox gives more flow” elsewhere
If you reduce the flow of e‑mails you will have more time to spend on oth­er things than your e‑mails. The risk of get­ting stuck pro­cess­ing emails and treat­ing your inbox as a to-do-list which might make you for­get what is on your actu­al list, decreas­es. Besides, you will enjoy the plea­sure of hav­ing an emp­ty inbox.

What is your method?
Can you think of oth­er ways of reduc­ing the amount of emails that flow into our inboxe on a dai­ly basis? A pen­ny for your thoughts…