People in a position of authority sometimes struggle even more than the rest of the team with an overwhelming inflow of email traffic. This is often just because people want you to know how busy they are. You can change that, and if you do, others will too. Manage your email traffic so that you set a good example.
Here is a 10 point plan for putting a productivity-based rather than an activity-based policy in place:
- Rather than allowing email to interrupt and distract you all day, consciously clear mails at the beginning and end of a day and once or twice during the day. Train your team, your clients and colleagues to do the same. With the use of current technology, many of us have developed the bad habit of anticipating instant responses all the time. Using your time in solid chunks to complete tasks is much better than jumping from email and social media to other tasks.
- So many leaders are culprits of doing a full day’s work (in many cases mostly meetings) and then addressing emails after hours. This will obviously happen in peak times, but do not let it become the norm. Perhaps this pattern of handling emails could be looked at as the perfect example of someone who has not learnt to delegate effectively?
- Everyone wants access to their leader; they all want a little piece of your time.
- Tell your team to be more discretionary in their use of mail. Encourage them to send you a final mail.
- Remind your team of the value of getting up from your desk and telling someone what you want them to know.
- Send messages with just a subject heading if that is all the space you need to convey your message eg “Yes, I can product the stats.” Use that line as a summary.
- Try never to hit ‘Reply all’, unless it is absolutely necessary. How often do we see someone saying well done or thank-you to an entire group, when it could have been communicated individually? Consider how many people need to read, digest and delete that mail. And then delete it again out of their delete box.
- Be clear in your instructions. If you want staff to understand and meet your expectations, ensure that you communicate with clarity. Use bullet points when you can. Send one mail of instruction to many people, with their names ahead of each directive.
- If you can include a variety of content in one mail for one person, do. Use headings.
- Institute a fun fines system if you see that your team are not reducing their mail. Donate the fines to your charity of choice.