Escape the Productivity Pit by Taking Control of Your Email

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Are you starting to feel trapped in a “productivity pit?”

While your mobile phone is supposed to make you more accessible and productive, it can also complicate your day, leaving you frazzled and weary. While the world is adjusting to new work-from-home scenarios, the increasing emphasis on new technology can often make workdays worse, not better.

While you may not be able to change your current working situation, you can take control of something that dominates the daily landscape: your email. DMA data from 2019 shows that the average number of email addresses owned by consumers is 2.5. Researchers estimate 132 billion business emails are sent daily, and American workers will receive an average of 126 emails every 24 hours!

5 Tips to Beat Back Your Email

Many people are drowning in digital messages, and it is not uncommon to find accounts that contain 50,000 messages. How can you beat back the tidal wave? Here are five tips to get started.

1. Change Your Mindset

Inbox overload is not just a traffic issue; it’s a priority issue.

Did you know that 84% of people keep their inboxes open all day, and 70% of emails are opened within six seconds? Many people claim to check their email and chat apps every six minutes or less. If that doesn’t stress our minds, it will undoubtedly tax our emotions.

To avoid digital overload, start with this truth: email can be a distraction that limits effectiveness.

2. Set Response Time Expectations

Because 63.5% of people say they expect an email response in one hour, reducing your email check-ins could cause unexpected conflict.

To set boundaries around email use, try using your “out of office” reply feature to let people know you will be away from the screen and when (or if!) they should expect a response. This can alleviate tension and also decrease the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that sparks you to check in so often.

3. Use Labels to Prioritize

Sometimes people feel pressured to deal with messages immediately, so they don’t get overwhelmed.

A better option is to use labels and a separate inbox to separate important from non-urgent messages. Scan your account once or twice a day and add the label @processing to any messages that need attention. Then collapse your regular inbox so you can’t see incoming messages.

Focusing on the priority list will heighten efficiency and decrease stress.

4. Draft Template Responses

Since it’s impossible to ignore or file each message, sometimes it is helpful to create a template of canned responses.

This may include apology notes, responses that hand off a request to your team, promises to follow up, or soft redirects to your website or FAQ page.

5. Pair Your Calendar with Your Follow-Up

Because some emails might require more than a simple reply, consider filing mail needing follow up in subfolders dated at the start of each week.

Then add the corresponding task to your calendar and include the folder location and date to remind you when a response is required. Dated weekly folders help clear your inbox and make for quick reference when you need to recover a task or a conversation. Dated folders can also allow you to delete timed out messages as a group, rather than deleting them one by one.

Redeem the Time

Email is many things, but a timesaver it is not.

If you work 260 days per year, AOL Jobs estimates you will spend 73 days doing nothing but staring at your inbox.

There is a better way! Set boundaries around your email so you can live with less stress and more freedom each day.

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Get Ahead at Work by Busting These Bad Habits

Work and sleep are two of the most time-consuming things we do.

The average American will spend nearly 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so the way you approach your job can have a huge impact on your quality of being. As Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Do you want your experience at work to be as happy and anxiety free as possible? If so, perhaps it’s time to put the scalpel to some of your less-than-desirable work habits.

Here are just a few ways bad choices might make your life more difficult at work.

Habits that Hurt You Personally

Skipping Breaks

Sometimes we think we’re too busy to take breaks or grab some fresh air.

But this simply isn’t true. Research shows productivity is highest when people work in “sprints” with frequent breaks (around 90 minutes with 15-minute rests).

Winging it on Mondays

Do you struggle to get down to business at the start of each week?

Devote part of Fridays to making a “start here” list for the following week so you can hit the ground running on Mondays.

Negative Attitudes

A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 62% of employers say they are less likely to promote employees with a pessimistic attitude.

Avoid complaining (which comes across as unprofessional) or responding to suggestions with negative comments like “that won’t work,” or “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Even when things go wrong, focus your energy on what you’ve learned rather than despising your situation.

Habits that Annoy Others

Eating Smelly or Loud Foods

While a small snack may be fine, avoid eating foods that are messy, noisy, or smelly to protect your reputation with co-workers. Top stink generators include reheated fish, raw onions, tuna, smelly cheese, and hard-boiled eggs.

Grooming at Your Desk

When you are distracted, do you tend to chew your nails, play with your hair, pick at your face, or pull food out of your teeth? What if the co-worker next to you did this? Yuck. Enough said!

Interrupting or Asking Too Many Questions

While a willingness to contribute can be great, often you may be repeatedly cutting off others without realizing it.

Interrupting is rude and shows a lack of self-control. Similarly, asking an abundance of abrupt questions can be draining or annoying to others. When you need further information, gather a list of questions and pose them in an organized, positive way so you are respectful of others’ time.

Habits that Harm Your Reputation

Using Work Time Improperly

Be honest: while at work, how often are you handling texts, personal e-mails, or private phone calls?

If you think others don’t notice, you’re wrong. While co-workers may tolerate this behavior, it will certainly hinder the respect or opportunities you receive in the future. Keep your personal life out of sight (perhaps tucking the phone away or on silent) and you will be more efficient and more valued.

Distraction or Delays

Why is texting while driving illegal?

Because it’s impossible to concentrate fully on two things at once. If you are jotting personal notes, sending e-mails, or galloping through the fields of your imagination during meetings, it sends an inconsiderate message and communicates a lack of integrity. Come to appointments on time and ready to focus.

Being Nosy or Political

While small talk goes a long way to build rapport with others, avoid uninvited personal inquiries or incessant curiosity that won’t let things go.

And remember, if certain topics are divisive in politics, they’ll be divisive at work. Keep conversations focused on work-related issues to avoid insulting others, hurting your professional image, or causing rifts in your company.

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