How to Curb Distracting Email Clutter

How to Curb Distracting Email Clutter

For most businesses, and their employees, emails are a huge source of distraction. According to technology research firm The Radicati Group the average office workers sends, receives and opens 121 emails a day, working out to one every four minutes of an eight-hour workday. Sounds like a lot? It is.

All this email, of course, is for the most part unproductive and distracting. But how can this distraction be minimized without stalling corporate communications? Here are some ideas.

Stop the Reply All Madness

Chances are that you are familiar with this scenario; you, and several others, are CCd in on an email. For no real reason. And, an hour in and eight replies later you are frustrated enough to feel like screaming.

Unnecessary CC’ing and the overuse of the “Reply All” button are huge contributors to email clutter. There are a couple of things you can do to lessen the madness:

Change expectations: Being unnecessarily copied on emails is usually the result of someone trying to cover themselves. To combat this, set the expectation with your employees for the best way to keep you informed – whether that’s setting a time to talk to you about an issue in person or just changing the subject line to call out specifically when action is required.

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Ignore the conversation: Changing expectations unfortunately won’t get you out of every annoying email chain you don’t need to be copied on.

For worst-case scenario email chains, go with the nuclear option: the “Ignore Conversation” button. If you’re using Outlook, you can use this to ignore all future communications in an email chain (they will go directly to your “Deleted Items” folder). Beware, though: It will also delete the messages in the chain you’ve already received.

To ignore an email chain/conversation, select a message in the email chain, and click the “Ignore” button (right next to the deleted button).

Cut Down on Email Newsletters.

Even if you read them every day, getting multiple industry newsletters and discount offers from that store you shopped at once and a newsletter from your kids’ school can quickly clog up your inbox.

There are a few options for how to streamline:

Declutter: Take a few minutes one day to assess the email newsletters you get and which ones you actually read. If you don’t read it on a regular basis, unsubscribe from it. All emails newsletters should have an unsubscribe link somewhere near the bottom.

Add a Newsletter Tab: If you can create rules in your email client (directions for Outlook are here, and Gmail here), create a “Newsletters” folder in your inbox, then create rules to send your newsletter there automatically. If you’re subscribed to newsletters from different companies/senders, you may have to create multiple rules.

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Use UnRoll Me: Unroll Me is a free service that aggregates your email newsletters into a daily email and lets you easily unsubscribe from the newsletters you don’t want to receive. It’s compatible with (including Hotmail, MSN, & Windows Live), Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail, and iCloud.

Use a Corporate Social Network

Another major source of unnecessary email is company-wide emails. A great solution for reducing this is to implement and use an internal social network. Suggesting a social network to combat productivity issues sounds counterproductive, but done right it is anything but.

Yammer is a good choice, and one that is very affordable, so great for a smaller business. Management and staff can be encouraged to post all company-wide announcements there, instead of sending an email. Staff can check the messages at their leisure and their email inboxes will be less cluttered (and distracting).

Turn Email Into Conversation

Another cause of email clutter: email chains that could be eliminated by just having a short conversation – you know the ones we are talking about.

The solution? Just have a conversation. Pick up the phone or use an instant messenger and just talk to the other person.

Giving employees another way to communicate – like an instant messenger – for short conversations can seriously cut down on the one and two sentence emails and help drastically resolution time. When you don’t have to fight through the noise that is someone else’s inbox, you can get an answer much, much faster.

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