Out of all the resources we have at our disposal (money, time, energy, and attention) time is the most limited one. We always have the opportunity to make more money in the future, but we can’t get time back.
While working with my clients to free up more time, email is regularly identified as the #1 opportunity for improvement. Email can occupy anywhere from 10-20 hours per week and it also represents a huge mental drain.
Next, I’m going to share with you my 5-step system to save at least half a day on email:
Step 1: Organize with 4 folders
Create 4 email folders and place them at the very top of your email folders list. The folders are: Reply Today, Reply this Week, Waiting to Hear Back and Learning.
Step 2: Use the 3-click rule
Filter your inbox to zero by following the 3-click rule, where you choose one of the following 3 actions for your email: DELETE, FORWARD to another person or MOVE IT to an appropriate folder (Reply Today, Reply This Week, etc.)
You don’t need to respond to any of the emails for now, just filter them.
Step 3: Batch your email into 1-2 time blocks per day
Instead of checking and responding to your email constantly during the day, you only check and respond during 1 or 2 set times. This keeps you more focused and boosts your productivity.
Go into your Calendar and schedule a couple of email time blocks as recurring appointments. They can be between 20 to 60 minutes long, depending on the volume of email that you get on a daily basis.
When you’re not in one of your email blocks, limit distractions by turning off notifications and closing down all email windows.
Be sure to communicate your new email habits to those around you. Train them on how to respond to you when reaching out over email, especially if you work with people in the corporate world.
Step 4: Respond the smart way
Besides responding to email during your time blocks, use the 3-sentence rule from Chris Ducker: each reply should be 3 sentences or less, when possible.
Now if your reply will need a response from the other person, BCC yourself in the email and place it in your “Waiting to Hear Back” folder, for future reference.
Another tip is to draft an email and save it until the end of your time block. When that time comes, hit send on all the emails that you typed out. Why do this? To avoid sending off an email, then someone emails you right back and sends you down a rabbit hole, which we don’t want.
Step 5: Subscribe to Unroll.me
Unroll.me is a free online tool that searches and lists all of your email subscriptions in your inbox, automatically. Then with each email on the list, you have 3 options: unsubscribe with one click, keep them in your inbox or put them on what’s called a “rollup”.
A “rollup” is a once-a-day email that takes all your designated subscriptions and puts them into a beautiful daily digest that you can quickly and easily scan.
If you find an email on your rollup that you’d like to keep or send back to your Inbox, just click on it and it’s done.
Check my step-by-step method on how to use Unroll.me here (click to blog post)
Using this method it’s going to cause people to prioritize how urgent their matter to you really is and (if you communicate this expectation upfront and follow through on your promises) people will respect it and start to work around your new habits.
Remember to leave a comment with your timesaving email tips.