Does email run your life? It’s easy to feel this way; 294 billion emails were sent in 2019, and the numbers are increasing. The typical employee receives over 120 emails a day, marking this communication venue as a big target for improved time management. How can you improve how you handle managing email, so it doesn’t feel like it’s taking over your life?

Help! Email is Destroying My Life

Have you ever asked yourself: Am I running my schedule—or is it running me? Feeling out of control due to a pile of clamoring emails is no fun. It can make you feel like your job is out of your control. Research shows that some workers check their inboxes up to 350 times each day! Keeping up a demanding inbox makes employees feel like they can’t keep up. The research shows that employees who feel more in control over their work schedules are more satisfied.

McKinsey says we spend nearly 30% of every workday just managing our inboxes. This can lead to stress, and stress leads to poor performance on the job. To get a handle on your inbox communications, it’s time to jump off of the reactive treadmill for a moment and get a grip on your priorities. 

Reprioritize Your Inbox and Stop Stressing Out

When you feel like your day has run away from you and it’s happening frequently, it’s time to stop and assess what is happening. We recommend taking an inventory of the tasks that encompass a day. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many times do you answer the phone? 
  • Do you check instant messaging constantly along with email? 
  • How much time do you spend responding to communications from coworkers or clients? Is this time spent separate from the deliverables that are part of your job? 
  • This is the big question—Are you getting your real work done or is responding to emails getting in the way?

Next, prioritize how you are spending your time. Which tasks are:

  • Urgent and important with hard deadlines?
  • An unexpected crisis that must be dealt with?
  • Important, but not urgent and certainly not a crisis?
  • Neither urgent nor important.

The email response zone hits somewhere between bullets one and two. They could be a crisis or pretty important and related to something that has a hard stop deadline. We think you can figure out which tasks should be prioritized in the “do it now” category.

Once you master the prioritization idea, you need to do this EVERY DAY. In fact, if you’re super busy, you may need to do these two or three times a day. The goal is to prioritize what you should be working on right now. If you do this regularly, you will regain control of your inbox. It will also help you prioritize non-urgent requests by saying, “I’m on a deadline right now, can I tackle this at 3 pm (or tomorrow)?” to a colleague. Since cross-functional collaborative projects are the new normal, being able to control your priorities helps you manage all of the conflicting wants and needs from coworkers. Basically, if you’re clear on your workload and tasks, it will keep those around you happier because they know you’ve heard them, and you will respond—but if it isn’t a crisis, they will have to get in line. 

If you’re a recruiter, a good organizational tool like Exelare can also help you manage tasks. You’ll be able to automate many of those time-consuming manual tasks that take up so much of your time. To take back control of your tasks, including email, you need a tool like Exelare. Interested in a demo? Click here.