Getting back to basics and consolidating every type of correspondence on email may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a way to increase your effectiveness overall.
It amazes me how many communication “solutions” are available nowadays–and yet, we feel more stressed than ever. We talk endlessly about focus and productivity but the very same tools that claim to offer these values appear to make the situation worse.
It’s no coincidence that burnout levels are at an all-time high, and our attention spans are blitzed. How can we be expected to focus when alerts are constantly going off in the background, not to mention the battle to stay on top of hundreds of conversations scattered throughout our numerous apps?
Email, on the other hand, is simple. It’s unified. It’s an open channel of communication that is used worldwide to maintain an open dialogue both inside and out of the workplace.
The problem is, people still aren’t using it properly. They spend endless hours trying to grapple with a bloated inbox, and then, frustrated, turn to other apps for help. This only fuels the problem, making workflow confused and fractured.
At the same time, with remote work on the rise, the demand for easy communication and collaboration has never been higher. Email has a pivotal role to play here. By leveraging the power of your inbox, and using it as a tool to unify all conversations and tasks, workspace productivity can be radically transformed.
Here’s how to get back to basics and make email your productivity superhero.
TREAT EMAIL AS YOUR ULTIMATE TASK LIST
Lots of people think of email as something they have to do “on top of” everything else. Instead, flip that perspective, and think of email as one giant task list–the nerve center of your business or work.
The first thing you need to do is centralize these tasks. Just as it would be stressful to have your task list scattered all over the place, it’s massively distracting to have message alerts pinging in from different channels and trying to keep track of what conversations lie where. There’s no need to log into Slack to talk to your team, then email for your clients. You can do both in one space, without dividing your attention. Make good on this unsung quality by focusing all your conversations within your inbox.
Going forward, email is your go-to guru for everything that needs to be done. It’s the place for all messaging, ideas, and teamwork. No more frenzied alerts, or wisps of conversation lost in different apps.
STRIP AWAY THE BLOAT
When you see too much, you see nothing at all. It’s time to detox your inbox by clearing out the clutter and grout.
Do you get alerts every time Amazon dispatches one of your packages? Do you ever read them? What about Google doc edits? Few people think to change default notifications like this, but a forensic-level clearout makes a world of difference in freeing up your feed.
The same goes for any unwanted newsletters you’re signed up for. Unsubscribe from them in bulk. Ditch your email signature, too. It adds needless bulk to your conversations, and most people you chat with are well aware of who you are anyway.
Stripping away the bloat allows you to truly focus on the important work you have to do.
PRIORITIZE LIKE A PRO
The best kind of task list operates by tackling your most important goals first.
Make sure your email has a strong auto-priority feature that filters out everything but essential conversations and messages. You can help this process further by grouping messages per person or topic, and setting up rules so that messages go directly to those groups.
It’s also worth pinning your most critical emails right to the top of your inbox, so you can’t miss new messages and updates. Low-priority messages that you still need to respond to can be snoozed for when you have more time, or set as a reminder to respond at a later point.
People get obsessed with the idea of inbox zero, but it’s a misleading goal that creates unnecessary pressure to delete for the sake of it.
RECLAIM HEADSPACE TO BE MORE RESPONSIVE
What I really like about email is that, unlike instant messaging, there’s no need to reply straight away. Make the most of the freedom to respond at whatever time works for you. As research shows, we get a whole lot more done when we’re not available at all hours.
This flexibility allows you to reclaim headspace for priority conversations. Real-time technology, such as the ability to see when someone has read an email, can also help bridge the gap and provide reassurance between teams.
By consolidating emails, messages, and tasks into one workspace, you get the best of both worlds. Everything is simpler and clearer, and you know at a glance what needs to be tackled first.
At a time where our focus is worn to a thread, the ability to unify workflow like this is revolutionary. In a chorus of noise and distraction, trust me when I say that a clean, streamlined inbox has the power to transform all.
This article first appeared in www.fastcompany.com
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