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#5 Ways to Get Less Email at Work If you want to become your most productive self, it's important to take a hard look at your email habits

By Daisy Hernandez

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By 2020, 257.7 billion emails will be sent and received per day – and counting. Email overload may just be today's biggest productivity killer, so if you're overwhelmed by your inbox you are certainly not alone.

If you want to become your most productive self, it's important to take a hard look at your email habits. While it may feel as though you are powerless in the face of email onslaught, there are several ways that you can take action to tame your inbox and re-claim your work day.

Email isn't for Conversations

Though the work environment is rapidly becoming more digital, face-to-face communications are still just as important as ever. For problem-solving discussions or really any conversation where there is a lot of back-and-forths, turn the dialogue on email to a voice-to-voice or web conferencing discussion. Email is highly inefficient for conversations that require a lot of dialogue. You can accomplish much more, with less confusion, by taking such conversations off an email.

Send Less Email to Get Less Email

Keep in mind that sending email solicits more email. So, the more you work outside of email, the less email you will get. Instead, use other forms of communication to collaborate with colleagues and get your work done. If you are not in the same office space as your colleagues, turn to IM for fly-by comments you would normally verbalize as you were walking by. If you have email threads with transient information that you're not going to need to reference, consider moving over to chat to free up some space in your inbox. If you are having long, drawn-out dialogues over email about an important decision, chances are picking up the phone would help you reach a resolution much faster.

Put an End to "EOM'

If you can put the whole message in the subject line, it's most likely something that would be best communicated verbally or via a collaboration tool other than email. Start paying closer attention to whether an email is a right tool for the message you are trying to convey rather than using it as an all-purpose communication forum. If you're sending a lot of emails with just a subject line, that indicates that you are likely not using tools aside from email, and probably would be better served by diversifying the communication tools you use. For example, adding a collaboration solution to the mix can allow you to have the latest versions of documents at your fingertips, so you don't have to waste emails asking for updated documents or coordinating version control.

Context is King

When was the last time someone asked you a question via email without giving you the full context of why they asked it? Chances are, this is happening far more often than it should. Failing to include enough context is what creates so many of the long email threads taking up your inbox and your time. A lot of the back-and-forth on email is for getting clarification. Or, the respondent may try to guess how to position the answer, which can lead to more confusion (…and more emails). To get this under control, ask colleagues or teammates to send the context around what they are asking for in one email, rather than a series of one-offs so that you don't have to spend time putting all the puzzle pieces together.

Don't Keep your Team in the Dark

Transparency in decision-making is one of the best ways to build trust with your team and reduce email volume. If your team does not feel they understand the rationale behind your decisions, they will be hesitant to make decisions without you and will copy you on everything they do. This is a huge culprit for creating high email volume. Work to ensure that your team has the right level of transparency so that employees are empowered to make decisions on their own, without feeling the need to CC managers as an FYI. To streamline this further, encourage your staff to call when a discussion about the strategy or rationale behind decisions is required.

Daisy Hernandez

SAP GVP of Enterprise Collaboration

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