For most of us, our lives are bombarded with emails all day—the newsletters we signed up for (and forgot about), the deals on new styles of clothes from that store we shopped at once, and bills, bills, bills.
We swipe, delete, forward, reply, pin, and flag to deal with the email overload. Or, for some of us, you just ignore them.
Raise your hand if this gives you full-on anxiety. 🙋
How long do you think you spend checking emails per day, including both work and personal inboxes? Maybe an hour? You quickly scan emails, you reply in a snap, or you delete without a second thought—you have way more important things to be doing than checking email!
Five hours per day.1 Five hours. Per day.
Do you know what you could do in five hours? You could learn how to juggle! Or you could learn how to make cheese! There are actually 50 things you could learn to do in five hours or less instead of wasting time checking your email.2
As technology and communication evolve, email is no longer considered the fastest or most efficient way to reach people. It was once the main way to catch up with an old friend or family member, send an interesting article you read, or discuss business opportunities and brainstorm, but no more!
Now, you can quickly jump on a call, send a short message or GIF, and schedule a video meeting in a few clicks, instead of wasting time writing (and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting) an email and waiting for a response.
But don’t you worry, email isn’t going anywhere. It’s still a great tool for sharing information among team members, vendors, and clients, it’s just not the most productive way to manage your daily tasks and responsibilities..
In this blog, we’ll highlight five tips that will help you break away from your inbox and up your productivity game:
- Know when it’s time to use email and when it’s not
- Avoid checking your email first thing in the morning or right before bed
- Consider chat, video, and calling first
- Establish a routine with your coworkers
- Don’t treat your inbox as a to-do list
📥 Are you over email? If you hit at least one of the points on our checklist, it’s time to consider an email alternative.
Email has changed from its initial uses—it’s become less of a tool for efficient back-and-forth communication and more of a tool for sharing information, especially when it doesn’t require a response.
With tools like video conferencing software and messaging apps (among many, many others), connecting with others can be done instantly. Besides, waiting for a response via email can halt your workflow and deal a huge blow to your productivity. What if someone has 1,000 unread emails and isn’t great at checking their inbox regularly?
If you compare an email-heavy approach (which most of us are used to) to a more flexible way of communicating, you’ll see that there are ways to get answers more quickly from coworkers, without being at the mercy of their own email-checking habits:
Still, email has purpose, but it’s important to know when it’s a good idea to send an email vs. not. Let’s look at some scenarios:
- You want to invite your team to an event, like a webinar or to hear a keynote speaker. Should this be an email?
Yes! Sending event invites through email is ideal, since so many of us have our calendars synced with our email client. Recipients can easily RSVP and add the event to their calendar right from the body of the email, whereas if you sent it as a message or only talked about it over the phone, some people might forget about it and miss out. Streamlining processes is fuel for productivity!
- You need to check in with a colleague to see how an assignment is coming along. Should this be an email?
Maybe not this time. For quick check-ins or questions that have short answers, don’t waste your time thinking of a subject line and a formal email, complete with an intro, action item, and a follow-up note. Send them a chat. It’s easier, faster, and it gives you more room to be casual and have a longer conversation, if needed.
Pro-tip: When words don’t cut it, try a GIF. Some messaging apps have built-in integrations that let you quickly search for and add a funny GIF to a conversation. (Perfect if you have friends at work who you share inside jokes with.) For example, RingCentral users have access to the GIPHY library for all those times a quote from your favorite movie says everything perfectly:
- You’re hosting a meeting and want to share a detailed agenda or presentation with the participants. Should you send an email?
You don’t have to! Sending it via email is a great way to help keep those you emailed organized—but, agendas and this type of meeting information can usually be added right in the meeting invite when you schedule the meeting. They’ll be able to easily search for the doc or email in their inbox. This is an especially important step if you’re scheduling meetings with people outside of your business or who aren’t using the same communication app that you use.
- Someone emails you something that doesn’t require a follow-up, but you want to acknowledge it. Should you send an email?
Not necessary! If you receive an information-only email, you don’t need to reply back “Got it, thanks” or some version of that. The person on the other end trusts that you will see it and that you’ll reference it if you need to.
If you still want to tell them you saw it, send them a quick chat: “Hey, saw your email. Thanks for the info! Super helpful.” Keep it light and casual. Have we already mentioned GIFs are a fun way to say practically anything.
If you’re waking up and checking email, you’re setting the tone of the day: stressing over what you need to do for the day or reading a not-so-nice email from a coworker. And too much stress can put a damper on your productivity.
The same goes for when you’re checking email right before you fall asleep when you’re venturing off into dreamland.
We suggest scheduling time in your day—yes, literally blocking time in your calendar—where you can read and address emails:
- An hour into your workday—settle into your day, get the things off your plate that are weighing on you, whether that’s taking a final look at a presentation you’re creating or finishing up registering for that webinar. Get the quick, easy victories out first, so you can start off feeling accomplished!
- An hour before the end of your scheduled workday—if you’re scheduled to work until 5, check it at 4. We suggest avoiding right before you end your day because if you see an email from earlier for something that is due by EOD or something you know will only take a half hour to knock out, you are still doing it within your day, and not working overtime.
If you’re feeling like this isn’t enough, or if you’re still working on email withdrawal, throw in a midday check right when you come back from lunch. You’re not hungry (or hangry), so you can check your email with a clear mind. If there are things that need to be done by the end of the day, you have enough time to get started and hopefully finish, or at least set expectations with others for when it can be finished.
Extra points for closing your email client between these hours—you don’t want to be tempted to check every twenty minutes, just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. If someone needs you desperately, ask them to send you a message.
If you’re sending emails as a primary way to communicate with your team or coworkers, you’re likely wasting so. Much. Time. Good news is, there are many solutions out there that will make your life a million times easier.
For example, you could send them a message, have a video call, or even make a good old-fashioned phone call. What if you could do all that in one app? Well, you can, with the RingCentral desktop and mobile app. However you want to reach out to your colleagues, you can do it one place:
There’s no app hopping, dialing numbers or extensions you can never remember, or thinking of a catchy subject line.
If you wanted to reach out to Karen from finance, it only takes three steps to contact her:
- Search her name in the search bar.
- Hover over her name and decide whether you want to message, video, or call her.
- Click the icon.
In that little of time, you’d be lucky if you got through the first sentence of an email—after you had to get back to the window with your inbox, click “Reply” or “Compose new email,” type in her name, think of a subject line, and then start typing your email.
Are you exhausted? I’m exhausted.
Look for a product (like RingCentral!) that has features designed to help streamline your processes. For instance, RingCentral’s group chatting feature lets you get everyone who is working on a project into one location where you can share links, docs, images, and more. And there’s even a sidebar that keeps all those shared files organized for quick access, so say goodbye to scrolling through conversations just to find that one file you need:
Thinking of sending an email? Stop and consider whether you’ll save yourself (and others) time by sending a quick message, giving them a call, or asking to schedule a video chat, where you can have a more in-depth discussion.
🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral works by booking a product tour:
It’s going to take more than just ignoring your inbox to really save time. Make sure to inform your team that the best way to reach you is by messaging, calling, or scheduling a video call. Let them know that you only check your email twice a day, so if something urgent comes up, they can get in touch with you instantly via message.
This also becomes important when you’re away on business, and you need to get in touch with a team member immediately. Say you need a particular document or a timeline for a campaign, you can chat in real time, instead of sending emails back and forth and waiting for someone to respond.
And when you need time to concentrate without being disrupted, you can change your status to “Do not disturb,” which helps others know that you’re busy, and if they do have a question, they’ll likely find their answer faster asking another teammate:
It’s okay to pin a few emails in your inbox—for example, you might pin an email that you have to follow up in a month or maybe it’s an email you received from someone saying how good of a job you did (and it’s a great reminder of your hard work paying off). But when you have a dozen or dozens of emails pinned, it sort of defeats the purpose of pinning an email.
Or maybe you’re someone who emails themself a reminder to do something because you know you’ll check your email.
Whatever your situation may be, give yourself a real to-do list—either with an app (even better if it’s one you use all the time, like RingCentral, which has a task management system built in) or by writing it down by hand, since writing by hand is linked to retaining information better.
The more time and distance you can put between your inbox and your daily workflow, the better.
Say hello to email productivity—and get more done
Email has been a major part of our professional lives for a long time, so figuring out how to be more productive away from your inbox is all about setting up a new routine.
It’ll take some practice, but, before you know it, you’ll be spending more time getting your work done and less time managing your inbox.
Originally published Oct 29, 2020, updated Feb 16, 2021