Why do we find it so hard to make decisions? The inability to make quick, timely decisions when all necessary information is at hand has ruined many a great company and many a (almost great) career. Sometimes I feel its better to make the wrong decision sooner, learn from mistakes made and pivot, rather than wait 3 months to explore what other hypothetical scenarios could possibly span out. I see so many people and organisations suffering from the inability to make decisions that they eventually miss opportunities that their competitors or small time startups pursue at pace.
One particular problem I see everyone suffering from is being email overload.
So how do we reduce email fatigue and help speed up decision-making processes?
My 5 Golden Rules for Email Emancipation.
1. Be disciplined: Religiously unsubscribe from anything not utterly essential ( ie. crap). As soon as you buy something from a new site, or sign up for a whitepaper and you get that initial “welcome email” – ask yourself this question: do I really have the time to read all the content (or marketing BS at worst) these people are going to send me every day/week/month? In some cases the answer will be yes, but in most the answer will be no.
For my personal email address I use a free service called unroll.me which has drastically cut the time I spend trawling through my inbox. My rule of thumb is: have I opened that recurring email more than 3 times in the last month? If the answer is no, then I unsubscribe. The first I used this service, I unsubscribed from over 200 email subscriptions in less than 10 minutes.
Time saved: 30 subscriptions X 30 secs (attention)/email: 15 minutes a day.
2. Learn how to auto archive emails that don’t require you to read them on a daily basis.
For those of us in the corporate world who receive FYI emails on a daily basis but have to keep these emails for specific reports/presentations, this tip will save you upwards of 10-15minutes of time/week.
We overload ourselves with useless information which hampers our ability to make effective decisions. Ask yourself “what information do I really need to do my day to day job effectively” as well as “what are the metrics my boss looks at religiously?”.
Focus on these and only these.
3. Hold company wide internal “email etiquette” training.
Oldies and newbies alike don’t know how to use email properly. Teach them what the email culture of your organisation is. Tell them when it is appropriate to CC people. Tell them when it is appropriate to use formal vs. informal email signatures. Tell them which emails need to archived/deleted.
Then hold a team meeting (as most emails chains are within teams) to discuss when its appropriate to email, use chat or just have a face to face conversation. I think this is really important when you have teams of people from different generations.
My pet peeves:
- Emails without subject lines
- Contents of email has nothing to do with the subject line
- Multiple non-related issues/projects being discussed in the same chain- CC’ing people who have nothing to do with the subject line
- Forwards with “FYI”, followed with a chain of 600 emails. If you are forwarding something to your boss (or someone for advice), ask specifically what input you want from them, whether it be a confirmation, a decision, or if there is a specific piece where you need their input.
4. If your company uses Outlook, use Conversation View in your inbox. This will sort your email chains into threads (like gmail) and source the emails from different folder locations that have the same subject title (e.g. emails in your inbox, sent items, deleted items etc. will appear in one thread of emails organised in time sequence)
This will drastically reduce the time you spend looking for specific email.
5. Email is old. Get with the times and move your team onto Slack.
You may have internal messaging platforms, but none are as functionally useful as Slack. Heck, NASA collaborated the Mars project on the platform… so how complicated can your projects possibly be?
Using Slack will drastically reduce the number of emails in your organisation and more importantly, you’ll have a historical chain of development of projects over time. So when someone leaves the company, you can see the logical progression of what they collaborated on with other team members.
And as a final, parting note, be sure to develop good email habits.
Indecision wastes an incredible amount of time. Don’t open your emails when you know you don’t have time to respond.
Open the email when you can take that next step- make the call, delete/archive and move on. Develop a habit of 100 emails or less in your inbox. 100 is my number, for other people is 30, 50 or something else. The point is, when the number of emails in your inbox goes over this number, you know you are losing control.
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About: Imteaz Ahamed works in the eCommerce space for RB. At the tender age of 6, in the early 90’s his father bought him a 386 PC for $3000, the best investment he could’ve ever made for his son. Imteaz also mentors early stage startups & entrepreneurs from all over the world and is avid fan of hackathons. He is also a StartupBus Conductor and Alumni – the most intense 72 hour startup hackathon in the world.