Here is a common denominator for all companies and projects– a massive number of email correspondence. Below we share tips that helped us to reduce the number of emails by over 70%. .
Quit emails, and move into a collaboration tool
The most important advice is to move the communication into a project management software. We are using one tool to handle all the processes: projects, support tickets, invoices, orders and it saves a lot of time. The fewer systems you use, the better, as you don’t lose the time on jumping between them, or even worse, copying information from one to another.
In current busy life, it’s relatively not hard to miss an email. Also, if you’re not sure if the person will read the message you sent, and take action upon it, both email and a tool will be useless for communication.
Have a task list in your project management system. Don’t stick to paper lists or the one in the head.
Don't turn off notifications. Instead, if you are involved in many projects or issues, use filters in your email box to sort our the messages.
If you are not working in Agile methodology, don’t overload the task list. If you have too many issues on your agenda, just to get acquainted, to sort them out and prioritize them, will lead to fatigue and decrease in productivity and motivation. Especially if the list is hanging on for a long time. Agile methodologies have mechanisms that bring focus: Scrum’s sprints, or Kanban's work-in-progress limits, that keep your team focused.
Please keep in mind that it’s a not a silver bullet. If you would swift from emails to a tool, but your team members won't update the tasks and won't check their assignment lists, all work will go in vain.
Often clients ask about the status of the issue or request to add new functionality. With emails, you not only double the work but also risk a potential loss of relevant information. Status updates, reporting new features as well as feedback can be handled inside the system.
You have to invite clients into and explain how to use it in details. The best would be to show them on examples.
Redmine, opposite to systems such as Wrike or Bitrix24 allows you to give access to clients to accept completed tasks. You can provide them with access to the custom Agile board, where they can observe the status of sprint in details. It can help to dramatically reduce the number of emails related to the acceptance of the sprints.
You can enable clients to create new issues straight in your Redmine. Our client, IT software House used this way and created a separate tracker for Question, Task, Request and Bug report. This helped them to reduce the number of emails and divide the types of request. And their team can track and solve the tickets faster.
Going after the hit, you can allow your client to specify who have to handle the issues they reported.
Set email windows
Check and respond to emails only a few times per day, expert advice 2-3. It depends on your position and function in the team. Checking email “ad hoc” destroys your focus, and accordion to a recent study from the University of California Irvine, it takes on average 23 minutes to refocus back on your task.
Review and sort the messagesThere are different systems. The simplest is dividing them into folders, such as
- Inbox. A temporary folder, from where you move the emails further. The only exception is when you reply immediately and are awaiting an immediate response.
- This week
- This month/quarter (depending on your role)
- FYI (informational only, and messages that you might want to refer back to in the future)
Getting Things Done (GTD) system uses another one, for example: In, Next Actions, Waiting for, Projects, Someday.
Good practise from the GTD: If a message requires your reply and it's something, that you can do it in under 2 minutes, then do it immediately. If it takes more time, set reminders or delegate it to an appropriate team member.
Put your conclusions, recommendations, call to action at the beginning of the message. It will fasten making a decision and response. And if an email is informative, then you save the precious time of your readers to scroll and look for needed action.
Three sentence rule.
Another approach is to keep your email in max three sentences or paragraphs. If you require more, consider phone call, meeting face to face or video conference.
Two most useful are NNR - No need to Respond, for informative messages. EOM - for one sentence messages, put EON in the subject line, or reply in the subject line” “Re: I posted Q2 spreadsheets to the database. —THANKS! GOT IT. EOM” If this sounds interested for you, Wikipedia lists 58 additional abbreviations.
Use canned responses
Most of the email clients, collaboration or helpdesk tools have this functionality. If it's not presented by default, you can use email signatures functionality to prepare responses to most frequently received emails.
Bring it back later
Snooze the message to bring it back then, when you have more time or for another email window.
Stop using email after office hours
How many times you received a message and perhaps even was obliged to act when you were out of office or on leave? Set clear rules when not to reply to them.
Overuse of smartphones and emails is one of the reasons of increased stress, burnout, and fatigue. In France, employes can ignore messages sent after hours. It’s allowed by law and negotiated in over 50 large organizations.
Big companies, such as VW, Daimler have a rule that returns to sender messages sent on an evening or holidays. Porsche was considering to do likewise, or even more drastic rules—to delete such messages.
Financial Times : "Uwe Hück, the head of Porsche’s powerful works council, said the carmakers’ workers should be protected from work-related emails in their free time. Any correspondence between 7pm and 6am should be “returned to sender”.
Some giants, as Atos banned using emails in the office.
We genuinely hope you found these tips useful and with their implementation, you will be able to save few hours per week. And use the time that you previously spent on emails to do something more joyful.
And as a short sum-up, I will quote CEO of LinkedIn.
Jeff Weiner, CEO LinkedIn To RECEIVE less email,
SEND less email.