On average, leaders receive over 120 emails per day – many get 300 plus. Which means that a disproportionate amount of leadership time is spent sorting, processing and responding to mail. With that volume, it’s almost impossible to keep your head above water. Waves of irrelevant notifications from distribution lists cause you to overlook critical customer feedback. Urgent requests for a decision can get lost in a sea of never ending “Reply All” threads...
A leader’s ability to triage, manage and respond to email has an outsized impact on the speed with which her organization can move. A well-managed inbox means:
- You spend less time in email – and more time working on the right things, coaching your people and leading the business
- Your teams get the timely guidance they need to keep moving, resolve issues, and do great work
Whether you’re a “Zero Inbox” leader or inbox as file cabinet hoarder, you’re probably not making Outlook work hard enough for you.
Here are 5 life preservers you can use today:
- Set Up Business Rules: Even if you already know about these, take a fresh look. These powerful and configurable settings allow you to be as specific as “Delete all Contract System notifications unless they contain my name, in which case, leave them in my inbox and make them urgent.” Spend 20 minutes looking at your email and creating business rules to separate the signal from the noise.
- Use Templates: If there are things you repeatedly write in an email, the template feature can save you lots of time. You write the text once using the “View Templates” button and then simply drop it into any email with a single click. For example, if you frequently field requests for your time, you can create a template that says “Thanks for the note. I’ve forwarded it to Sandy who will help us find a time to meet…” or “Appreciate the reach out. Given my schedule, I’m not the best person to help with this request. I suggest you contact Raj who will have the information you’re looking for.” Then, the next time a request comes in, you can respond graciously in just two clicks.
- Customize Quick Steps: If your productivity strategy is to transfer emails that require action to your task list or your calendar, find the “Quick Steps” on your Home ribbon, and click on the arrow to create a Custom one. Select “Create task” or “Create meeting.” When a new email comes in, pick your quick step and get it out of your inbox and into your workflow.
- Ignore Conversation: This little button in the top left hand of your Home ribbon will move an email and all past and future emails on that thread to your Deleted folder. You’ll want to use this cautiously as no one is notified that you’re no longer watching the email traffic. But if you’ve ended up on a thread by accident, this is a fast way out.
- Enable Conversation Clean Up: If you use the Conversation Thread view in Outlook (set from the View tab), there’s another way to streamline your inbox. Let’s say you return from a customer visit to find 30 emails in the same conversation. Before wading through them, select one of them, then click the “Conversation Clean Up” button in the middle left hand of your Home ribbon. Outlook will go through the conversation and delete any emails which are fully contained in a more recent one. For more on this little-known life preserver, check out this short video
Just because you receive 300 emails a day doesn’t mean you need to spend 300 minutes processing them (that’s 5 hours, by the way!). Use these life preservers to save your sanity – and your time.