Don’t Let Your Emails Manage You

Mark Freire

24th April 2018

If you are struggling to be productive at work, then the solution could be simpler than you think.

According to research conducted by Carleton University, people now spend one-third of their time at the office reading and answering emails. “And 30 per cent of that time, the emails are neither urgent nor important.”

With the rise of smartphones, there is now a culture of replying to work emails outside of working hours – be it on the train as part of the commute, or in some extreme cases midway through a family dinner.

Clients, colleagues, and newsletters can all contribute to this problem, but fortunately there are a number of ways to tidy up your inbox and increase your personal productivity by focusing on what is most important.

So, what can you do to lead a stress-free email life whilst at work? Take a look at our top tips to stop your emails from managing you.

1. Focus on the high priority emails

According to Templafy, the average office worker receives 121 emails a day, and sends around 40 business emails a day. But how many of these replies are urgent?

By keeping track of the most important projects and developments, you can make sure that you don’t miss a key development.

If your organisation uses Outlook as its email client, there’s an underappreciated system to help you tidy up your inbox and purge some of the clutter, as well as organise related emails.

Found in the ‘File’ tab, under ‘Manage Rules & Alerts’ and ‘Email Rules’, setting rules help you to both file messages, but also flag those that need following up in a prompt manner. You can set all emails received from specific email address such as your manager or project coworkers to be flagged for follow up – helping you to see clearly which emails deserve your attention.

These can in turn be organised into folders, meaning that you’ll have access to the full email chain whenever you need it.

2. Learn to say no

This can be a challenge for any professional, however each yes leads to more work.

Almost everyone has been roped into a task at work that has little to do with them, or even worse, doesn’t have a clear benefit for the company.

By establishing clear responsibilities and duties before a project gets underway, you can assign the work elsewhere, or even convince the project lead that it’s best approached a different way/put on hold.

Not only will you save yourself from being CC’d into a frustrating email chain, you’ll also gain more working hours to complete the things you really need done.

3. Choose an email time

You should have clearly defined boundaries regarding when you check your emails. It’s perfectly sensible to stay on top of your inbox if you’ve got a large project in its final stages, but responding to your day to day work mailings in your own time only encourages people to contact you outside of office hours.

If you really want to retain focus then only check your email a few set times each day. This allows you to give them your full attention, rather than becoming distracted during your working day. Turning off your inbox notifications will make sure you are not continually dragged back to your inbox.

4. Unsubscribe from emails that you don’t read

With each event or conference you attend, you’ll be added to another mailing list. That’s not even counting the unsolicited sales emails which find their way around every spam filter known to man. Unsubscribing from newsletters when they first pop up can reduce the number of future emails you’ll receive, and help to make your inbox less cluttered. This in turn will give you a better chance of noticing the emails that really matter.

If you receive your emails on an Apple or Android device, is a great app for clearing up your inbox. It makes unsubscribing from newsletters much simpler, as well as giving you a view of all of your active newsletter subscriptions, and the option to consolidate these into a daily digest email (called the Rollup).

For desktop users, Gmail Unsubscriber is an open source alternative to, and ticks most of the same boxes.

5. Create template emails (if you send similar emails)

Another approach to managing your emails, is to improve the efficiency with which you deal with them. If you send a lot of similar emails, templates are an obvious way to speed up the time it takes to reply, and get you back to whatever you were working on. You can organise them by category, or even set up a routine out of hours reply, to assure colleagues that any inquiries will be picked up the next working day (and perhaps a contact number for any urgent issues).

So, there you have it. Take action with these tips before stress starts to eat into your work. A well-thought-out email strategy can seem tedious at first but will ensure you have the time and be in the right mind frame to face upcoming challenges.

JITR work closely with businesses to prepare them for what’s around the corner with contract and permanent solutions covering entry-level to senior level recruitment. To discuss your skills needs please contact us on 020 7426 9835 or