Email is a part of life these days. When I speak with people and ask about the biggest frustrations they have in their everyday life, email is always on that list. “I have too many emails,” they say. It is not uncommon to see people with hundreds of emails in their inbox, many of them unread. They feel as though they can never catch up. Many feel bad that they miss replying to important emails or just ones that they wanted to. Several minutes are wasted each time they are in their email looking for the one they wanted to reply to. Does this sound familiar?
Last year more than 205 billion emails were sent each day, yes billion with a B. It appears to be a catch-22 situation: we all hate the amount of email we receive, yet it is more than 80% of the population’s preferred method of communication. New communication tools such as messaging, Slack, or GroupMe only add to the number of inputs we receive on a daily basis. What can you do to better manage that overwhelming inbox?
Only 38% of emails received contain important, action-required information.
On average, 2.1 hours of every day productivity is lost to interruptions. Email is the top offender.
It can take up to 15-20 minutes to recover from those interruptions and be productive again.
It does not have to be this way. Regardless of your environment an office, in a retail store, or traveling from site to site there are ways you can better manage your email. It will take some effort and discipline on your part though.
Your inbox should only be for seeing new emails received. One of the biggest time wasters for email is touching and reading the same email over and over. Once you see a new email in your inbox, read it and then make a determination on what the next step will be.
Not every email needs a response right away or in many cases, at all. Unfortunately, we live in a world of instant gratification, but it doesn’t have to be that way for everything, especially not email. Establish a few times each day that you will review your email. It could be morning, noon, and after dinner or if your environment requires more attention, establish a once an hour pattern. You could choose 50 past the hour and set a ten-minute window for inbox management.
In addition to establishing your time windows, I would recommend adopting the AD3 method – Act Delay Delegate Delete.
Act on items that can be completed in 2 minutes or less. Your options here are DO NOW or MOVE. (Keep in mind that 2 minutes goes by quickly, only very short responses should fall into this category)
Delay items that will need more than 2 minutes to properly reply or act on would be delayed for later action. (See below)
Delegate Should or could someone else be handling this email? This is a good time to review whether you were the direct recipient of the email or if you were cc’d. If it wasn’t directly to you, it is already being delegated for you.
Delete items that do not need any action and do not contain any information that will be useful later. These could be quick update emails, cc’d emails that do not affect you, or general junk/spam type emails.
In most cases, you do not need any additional software to help in managing your email. Almost all mailboxes allow you to create folders or tags (Gmail users). Set up a couple of specific folders to help you sort your incoming messages. Set one up as Today, another as Tomorrow, one more for This Week, add a folder or tag for Review, and finally on for Follow Up. These will be where your messages go after you review them one time in your inbox.
When you review new messages, skim the contents and make a decision on the action required based on the information within. Then based on that, move the message to one of the folders you set up based on urgency. Use the Review folder for items that contain important information, but are not time sensitive and do not require immediate attention. It will simply take more than a minute or two to digest the information being communicated. For items that do not necessitate action, especially emails where you are cc’d, archive or delete those immediately.
If you use a task management or reminder system, you may choose to add the Today, Tomorrow, or This Week emails to your ‘to-do’ list. By keeping these emails in the new folders you set up, it helps to prioritize and isolate the most important items.
For emails or information that require you to follow up later or which you are waiting for a response to your request can be moved to the Follow Up folder. This makes it easy to scan on a regular basis to see what you may still be waiting for so you can move forward. Again, this helps to eliminate the ‘hunting’ through your inbox for that ‘one thing you need to check on.”
There are multiple options now available for any platform you use email on. There are apps for phones and tablets that build some of this sorting in for you. You can simply swipe to delay an email for a set period of time. This is a handy way to keep your inbox clean, but feel comfortable the message will come back to you when you know you will have time to manage it appropriately. Many of the apps will also make it very easy to move a message to other task management or to do list applications. External email services like SaneBox will take these steps even further by giving you options for longer delays, easily allowing you to unsubscribe to unwanted emails, or automatically moving emails to folders based on the sender. These can be very handy to help in prioritizing emails without having to wade through things arriving in your inbox.
There are plenty of options for better managing your email inbox. You do not need to succumb to the idea that spending hours on email each day is a necessity. Using these methods, I rarely have more than a dozen or so emails in my inbox at any time. I end each day with a clean inbox so I can have a fresh start the next day and begin working on what I prioritized from the day before.
Imagine what you could do with the found time from a different method of managing your inbox. If you saved only 15 minutes per day from having a process for email you would find over an hour and a half of extra time each week, 7.5 hours each month, and a whopping 91 hours each year. That time could be used for your own self-development, for hobbies you never seem to have time for, or just more quality time with friends or family. Your inbox is within your control, and you can make a difference for yourself.
What will you do with your new found time? What other ideas do you have for managing your email? Click here or on the comments button above to share your thoughts.
Making an impact for yourself is a challenge that many leaders never face head-on. Instead, they continue to focus only outwardly and never reach the full potential they could for themselves or those they serve. In part one of Self-Care for 2018, I introduced the core principles of mind, body, do. In this article, I want to look at how you can grow in each of the three areas.
Building your knowledge base is an important part of your personal development. Of the three areas I have spoken about, mind may be the easiest to act upon. There are so many options and resources available for building your expertise in areas of your business or interest. These can range from simple searches in Google and following the links all the way to enrolling in college classes and learning from professors. The important part is ensuring that you select what works best for you. Depending on what your ultimate goal is for the information you gather may help determine the activities you engage in to develop the mind aspect of yourself.
Costs for developing your knowledge base can vary as well with all of the different options. I would advise that you do not limit yourself by cost alone. Evaluate what you get for the cost involved and then prioritize from there. You do not need to spend a lot of money to get quality options online, at local community colleges, or single to multi-day speaking events. Remember any cost is an investment in yourself, so don’t shortchange yourself and miss opportunities to learn new and different things.
Finally, as it relates to mind, it is also a very quick way to differentiate yourself from your peer group. Identify a topic that you are interested in and then begin to dive deep into that area. You can learn very quickly when you dedicate your time to a single focal point and put that new knowledge to quick use. You will find as you learn more, share more, and teach what you learn to others that you are seen as an expert on that particular topic. In many cases, knowledge is a leverage point for involvement in new projects, unique conversations, and higher level positions. Those lead to more options for your ongoing development and learning only accelerating the mind aspect of who you are.
When I introduced the core principle of taking care of your body I mentioned three areas within that will impact how you feel, function, and fuel yourself. Let’s dive a little deeper into each.
You are what you eat, isn’t that how the saying goes? Start by doing some research on what your ideal weight is for your height, age, and gender. Consult your doctor as needed, but develop a plan and the necessary steps for where you want to be. I am willing to bet that in many instances you will not need to give up your favorite foods, all the time. Moderation of your current menu is a good first step. It could be as simple as reducing the amount of soda you drink or eating one less thing a day. Substituting fruit instead of a candy bar etc. When I started, my first step was to stop eating a candy bar when I was traveling through airports. Really. That was step one. Simple. Easy to achieve. And, it made a difference. It changed the mindset and led to other changes in diet that when combined, became significant in the impact they had for me.
Sleep is an underrated, highly important component of taking care of your body. The good news is sleep is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. More and more, you read about people speaking to the importance of getting enough sleep.
Most people are depriving themselves of the needed rest to maximize their daily potential.
I believe soon getting more sleep will be a badge of honor, versus today where those who can go on the least amount of sleep seem to wear those awards. We may feel that getting five or six hours of sleep a night is enough. We may not even feel that tired each day with that amount of sleep but most people are depriving themselves of the needed rest to maximize their daily potential. The cumulative effect of lack of sleep can impair people as much as alcohol can. The best thing you can do is start to identify what your ideal amount of sleep is. Use a couple of days off to measure how long you sleep without an alarm clock. If you find that over several days of this you sleep for 8 hours and then wake naturally and feel refreshed, then that is your target amount of sleep each night. It could be 7 hours. It could be 7 and half hours or more. This is driven by each individual, so do not feel as though you have to fall into a specific number. The old adage was to get eight hours of sleep each night. It turns out, that might be just about right. The average adult does require seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Once you determine your target sleep time, it is a matter of building a schedule around that. Simple and flexible are key ingredients here. Retail tends to be an environment where every day can be a little different. There are those days that require ‘close – open’ shifts and getting seven to eight hours of sleep would be a luxury. That is OK. Build your sleep schedule to be in harmony with your work schedule. And on those occasions where you cannot get your target amount of sleep, make a point of finding time to make it up when it works for you. (Hint: don’t let that go too long or you’ll need to sleep a week to make it up.) Again, once you find a rhythm for your sleep you will notice the benefits of a clearer head, more energy in what you do, and new ideas will come easier than before.
“I don’t have time for exercise.” How many people say that by the second week of January every year? Exercise does not have to be a time-consuming activity. There are plenty of apps now available for phones and tablets that have work-outs that can be completed in 7 minutes or less. Check out YouTube for exercise videos under 10 minutes – the options are countless. It could start as a five or ten minute stretching routine at home when you get up. That is how I started. Just that simple. Ten minutes of basic stretching every morning right after I woke up. It became part of my morning routine and then grew from there. Soon, I realized I had the time for it and even more, leading to using that treadmill that sat so quietly and patiently for many years. Now we work together almost every day. Once you begin exercising and get your body moving each day, you will find you have more energy, your mind will feel clearer, and you’ll discover you have the time to do it.
There is nothing better than the experience of doing something. Hobbies, travel, and personal interactions create opportunities to do. Seek out things you have not tried before. This could be a search for a new hobby if you don’t already have one. This could be finding adventures around your house or in your state. Maybe it’s hiking in the nearby woods or taking a climbing class at the local gym. (By the way, that could also count towards your exercise piece – just sayin’) It is less about the specifics of what you DO but it is important that you DO something.
When it comes to some of the plans you have put in place for taking care of your mind or your body this is the action step of executing your plan. Remember to ensure that those are not the only things you do. This will be a great way to broaden horizons, see things from new perspectives, and even get fresh ideas for your day to day work environments. You will have to plan and schedule these events, but I believe you will see the benefits right away. Good planning and scheduling can ensure a distraction-free time for your doing.
These are only a few ideas to help you get started on the three areas that are at the core of self-development. There are so many options for learning and building your knowledge base for your mind. I doubt you will find a shortage of ways to keep your body in peak condition. And, there are endless possibilities for new things you can do to experience around you. Keep it simple to start and build a routine to help it become part of what you do each day for success.
What do you think the benefits will be for you as you build a Mind, Body, Do plan for YOU? Click here or on the comments button above to share your thoughts.
Effective Retail Leader supports individuals and organizations in reaching their full leadership potential.