A recent study by Kelton Global found that 92 percent of Americans spend 90 minutes, on average, with their inbox every day.
Our relationship with our inbox at the workplace is impacted by what I call, inbox enemies, or everyday email habits that increase the time we spend with our inbox and decrease our overall workplace productivity.
Here are the four enemies, you — and your inbox — need to know about, as well as fixes.
1. Pursuit of inbox zero
The holy grail of most professionals’ email lives is achieving and maintaining a clean and lean inbox. Our fascination with cleaning out our inbox has spawned many products and apps, including the popular social phrase “#InboxZero.”
Your inbox is not your task list. It can add to or influence your daily to-do list, but to use it as a task management tool is not wise. We spend time moving “completed” messages out of our inbox and once they are out, we spend more time looking for these messages when we need them at a later date. How can you conquer your inbox? Utilize easy to use task management tools (especially mobile apps) that allow you to manage your emails better and leave your messages in the inbox.
2. OCOD (Obsessive Compulsive Organization Disorder)
Folks exhibiting OCOD are addicted to folders. We organize emails in folders because we deal with large numbers of messages and we are petrified of not being able to find one (or find it quickly) when we need it.
While folders work well for items that can be put in a single bucket and NOT in any other, email messages on the other hand are seldom mutually exclusive. An email that gets put in the “boss” folder may fit better in a “topic” folder. Most emails from team members, could fit into any number of folders depending on current tasks or work priorities. Result? In addition to the time spent organizing messages into folders, we waste time figuring out which folder an email is in. Use your email client’s native search capabilities instead or use an intelligent and easy-to-use search tool.
3. The notification ping
Think about this: How many times a day do you switch your attention to email as soon as you hear the alert on your phone, tablet or computer? This is actually a very natural human response, as humans tend to exhibit excitement or heightened interest in the unknown.
Turn notifications off while you are focused on an important task, or better yet, try closing your email client or application. You will complete your work more efficiently and your email will be waiting for you when you are finished. Afraid you might miss something important? Use prioritization rules when you come back to your email to help isolate critical messages.
4. The collision of personal and professional email
Sometimes our professional and personal email worlds collide. For example, you may email a friend from your personal email address for work related advice. Or you may find it convenient to use your personal email account (rather than your work email account) to send emails via your phone for quick and easier access. Such exchanges could easily compromise intellectual property, information security policies and even compliance regulations.
Separate these two email worlds ruthlessly. All emails with work related content should stay in your work email account.