Email has become so intertwined with our work lives today. Irrespective of the kind of work or the nature of the job, at least some part or process involves sending or receiving emails at work. And no matter how hard you try, you often find yourself spending way too much time handling an overburdened inbox.
If you’re spending a lot of time managing your inbox — taking care of emails or spam that eats up way too much of your time, then you’re using the time you can instead spend on other more productive tasks. According to research done by the McKinsey Global Institute, workers spend about 13 hours per week on email. Your email habits are effectively keeping you from being productive, and that’s a problem that we’re addressing in this article today. We’re going to learn how to spend less time managing your email and thus, be more productive.
1. Cut Off Distractions
One of the major reasons why users keep wasting time on email is because they’re easily distracted by it. Most email apps are designed to send you a notification for all incoming emails, irrespective of their importance. So while you’re busy working on a task that’s due in an hour, your phone or computer will keep calling for your attention for emails that can be safely ignored, such as newsletters and shopping deals. There’s a desperate need to stop checking your phone all the time, and it is vital that you take the necessary steps to cut down distractions from email and focus on all important work at hand.
The first step to lowering the number of distractions from email is to tame your notifications. Apps like Spark Mail come with features like Smart Notifications that filter your incoming email for you and will only notify you about emails that are important. This means that all the low-priority emails like weekly newsletters, shipping notifications, acknowledgments, etc. won’t be bothering you anymore.
If you’re courageous enough, you can even go ahead and turn off email notifications completely. You can still manually check your emails when you don’t have urgent tasks on hand, and anyone who wishes to reach out to you urgently can always call or message you any time.
Another approach to cutting off distractions is to create a Smart Folder to filter out your important emails, such as emails from known senders who are a high priority, or emails filtered based on certain keywords. And doing this is fairly easy when you have the power of Spark’s amazing Smart Search feature that uses natural language parsing to search and filter your emails.
So go ahead, cut off those distractions from emails and spend some quality time working on important things, not just at work.
2. Make Your Inbox Smarter
Taking control of your email notifications isn’t really that helpful when you find yourself spending far more handling the barrage of emails landing in your inbox. A majority of email clients offer basic inbox features, which means you have to manually do all the heavy lifting of moving all the junk mail to spam, filing emails you’re done with into the Archive folder and marking and tagging all the important emails. This is easier said than done, and you’ll find yourself spending hours every day trying to bring order to the chaos that is your inbox.
To reclaim this wastage of time, you should move to an email client that offers smart inbox features. With a Smart Inbox, all the heavy-lifting of filtering and sorting your emails is done by the email app, so you can focus on more important things and urgent tasks at hand. Spark Mail app is one of the few email clients that offer a truly smart inbox — all your emails are automatically sorted into categories Personal, Notifications, Newsletters. When all these similar emails are grouped together, you can archive or snooze them with a single click, saving you much of the precious time.
3. Don’t Start Your Day with Email
A growing number of people that I have spoken to have gotten into a habit of “doing email” first thing in the morning as they begin their workday. When you start your day by organizing and responding to emails, you are wasting a fresh, creative, and calm mind instead of utilizing it for something else.
I have observed that it is far more productive to begin your day working on creative or thoughtful tasks. Over the last few years, I have delayed looking at my email inbox till I cross off high-priority items on my to-do list. When I need to take a break or walk around to complete the stand goal on my Apple Watch, I gander at my emails in Spark for iPhone and spend the next few minutes archiving and snoozing the emails I don’t need. Then when I am back at my desk, I will respond to the emails that need to be answered and get back to a productive work cycle.
Very rarely do I start my day by looking at my email inbox. This also saves me from having an obligatory target in my head of emails pending in my mailbox, and I also don’t have to worry about “Inbox Zero” that often.
4. Act on All Emails that You Read
This is one email tip that I picked up from a random comment on a Reddit thread, and I have since turned it into a habit, which is to act on all emails that you read. Another way of looking at this email tip is don’t procrastinate. Whenever you are going through the list of emails in your default email app, and you read an email, make sure that you act on it. Try to avoid reading emails and then leaving them as it is in your inbox to be acted upon at a later date or time. When do you do this, when you procrastinate, you’re only piling up more emails in your inbox.
Instead, try to act upon emails as soon as you have read them. If it is an email that needs a response and you have the time to respond, go ahead and send that reply. If it is an email that needs a response, but you don’t have the time to type a reply or have to wait for some inputs from a third-party and hence cannot respond to it, then snooze the email for a later time. If it’s an email that doesn’t need a response, simply archive it. If it’s an email that just has to be acknowledged with a quick “Thank you!”, send a quick response to it. An even better idea would be to use Spark Mail app’s Quick Replies feature that allows you to customize and set one-click replies or acknowledgments to emails — lovely icons included.
The idea behind this is fairly simple — when you’ve come across an email, take some action on it such that you can knowingly move onto the next email. This simple email tip goes a long way in reducing email clutter in your inbox, and also ensures that you don’t feel overburdened when trying to get to inbox zero. And when you don’t procrastinate, you’ll automatically be spending less time doing email.
5. Use Templates for Repetitive Tasks
If you find yourself emailing the same repetitive content to multiple people all the time, then you should definitely be using email templates. Now, a lot of people hear “email templates” and dismiss the idea fearing their complexity. But if you look at the implementation of email templates in apps like Spark Mail app, you’d be pleasantly surprised at how easy to implement and use they are. This is especially true if you’re a team, considering that templates in Spark Mail app can be shared with all your team members.
Email templates in Spark come with auto-fillers — variables that the app automatically fills in for you when you are sending a reply to an email, as well as with custom placeholders — variables that you can define in the template and fill out while you are sending a reply to an email. With the help of these features, you’re going to find yourself responding to and filing emails much quicker, with ample time to work on other tasks that have been assigned to you for the day.
6. Move Newsletters You Read to your RSS Service
A growing number of emails that we typically receive in a week these days can be classified as newsletters. These are emails from websites, e-commerce stores, online services, and even offline local businesses. Everyone seems to want to send you weekly updates about what they’ve been up to, what’s new for sale, what’s on a discount or how you should start getting excited about a massive sale coming your way in 6 months. It has become a common practice to automatically sign you up for multiple newsletter lists every time you make a small purchase online or leave your email address in any contact form.
Now, by default, Spark’s Smart Inbox feature automatically filters and sorts these kinds of newsletters for you, so as long as you’re using the best email app for macOS and iOS, you should have some peace of mind. But there are some newsletters that you do want to read. These may be from someone famous on the internet who collects interesting links every week, a newsletter about productivity hacks, or any other topics that you may be interested in. Some newsletters have long textual content that you just don’t want to miss. If you think about it, this kind of material doesn’t really find a place in an email app — yet we all accept it as the norm.
For email newsletters that you do want to read and follow, I recommend moving them over to an RSS service or a dedicated app designed for newsletters. Feedbin is an incredible RSS service that gives you a unique email address that you can use for newsletter subscriptions. Every time a new issue is sent, it appears in your Feedbin account, and can be viewed on the website or any of your favorite RSS app. You can also use dedicated apps like Stoop to subscribe to newsletters and keeping your primary email inbox clean.
You now have fewer emails to deal with, and more time to work on important tasks that need attention.
7. Pick an Email App Designed for Productivity
All things considered, by far the easiest way to spend less time managing email and being more productive is to choose an email that does all the work for you. At Readdle, we’ve designed Spark Mail app to solve many of the issues that people face when managing their email inboxes, and have built a long list of features that help you take control of email and become productive.
Features like Smart Notifications, Smart Inbox, Smart Search and more are designed to help you start loving the email experience again, and take out all the hassles of managing multiple email accounts in the same app. And with special featured focused on teams, Spark is by far the best email client you can embrace on any platform.
Download Spark for Free and take the first step in becoming productive.