Our industry works on the Internet. All day. This in and of itself leads to major distractions – one minute you’re conducting a keyword analysis and the next you’re watching some YouTube video of cats, when really, you don’t even really like cats or the whole online craze over them.
There’s countless resources to help with productivity, from how-to articles and tools to productivity coaches and consultants. Well, Simply Business, did its best to cull together those articles and tools, drawing from some of the industry’s leading experts. You can find tools, articles, videos, and interviews in the below interactive piece that takes you through productivity for five different niches:
I’m particularly interested in the email portion, because I am not even joking when I say I am on email all. day. everyday.
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Since I sift through anywhere from 200-400 relevant work emails a day, I thought I’d take this time to ramble about email and let you know what tools and tricks I use to make it bearable. I’m not going to go through everything because there’s guides out there already that are so elaborate it’d be an injustice to try and simulate it. For example, my co-worker, John Doherty, wrote this post about Gmail tools for linkbuilders that highlights some of my favorites, such as Rapportive, Boomerang, canned responses, and undo send. Since his post is epic and detailed as hell, I won’t duplicate and try to outline tools.
What I will dive into are some quick tips that help me get through the day:
Give into Your Urges
I’m not a literal follower of Inbox Zero, but I have my own makeshift version going on. If you’re like me and are a bit too anal retentive to allow that glaring number boldly staring at you from the email tab to go by unnoticed, this will help you. Give into this urge, seriously, just do it. You’ll be thinking about not checking the email that you’ll end up decreasing your productivity. Instead, check it, but ask yourself this question immediately: Is this urgent and in need of my immediate attention?
If it isn’t, keep it in your inbox and go back to what you were doing. If it is urgent, ask this question: How urgent? If it can wait an hour or two, go back to what you were doing and move on. In almost every case, this is the category those “urgent” messages will fall into.
This takes some self control of course, which you will get better at. I’ve literally gone to my email, clicked the email open so it stops showing up as new, and go back to what I was working on without even reading it. If I really need to be in the zone, I open up a new window and make sure I cannot see that taunting email tab.
Organization is Your Best friend
If you’re like me and get too many emails to possibly respond to, figure out a system to stay organized. I use the search function in Gmail like crazy, but sometimes it fails me. Thus, I’ve become incredibly anal about folders. I use nested folders to keep track of all my client, third party, and internal communications. I know many people, whether followers of Inbox Zero or not, use archive to keep track of emails, but I find this not detailed enough for my purposes. It takes only a second to organize it, and having it organized has helped me pick up emails that would have otherwise been lost forever.
Mute the Noise
I am fortunate to work at a company that has a lot of awesome people who are friends and love to engage and share knowledge. The downside is that sometimes the emails can get insane. It’s not uncommon for someone to send around an email to everyone and then every. single. person. in the organization responds. I love how close we are, but sometimes it can be overwhelming, especially when it’s about a topic that is relevant to my role. So what do I do? I use the trusty “mute” feature to so the thread doesn’t keep showing up as a “new message.” It helps my sanity and makes sure that I still get the email for future reference. And if for some reason I think the topic will ever be of value, I send it to my “Learning Resources” folder for future reading.
Practice What You Preach
Ask anyone at Distilled, I am wordy in my emails. It’s a problem, but in an effort to affect change and shorten the emails that I receive, I try like hell to keep it to a minimum. If it needs to be long, I warn the reader in the beginning and put a TL:DR, or bulleted summary list with actions at the beginning. I also use bold/underlines to highlight action points or points of interest. We always talk internally that if it starts to become paragraphs, just have a quick call or G+ hangout, but if you are like me and prefer everything in writing, this is a compromise that will help. It takes practice, but in the end you learn where to be short and where a bit more detail is needed.