Managing an email inbox can be a daunting task, particularly when arriving back in the office after a holiday.
German vehicle-maker Daimler recently spoke out about its innovative approach to coping with holiday email. Their staff delete their entire inbox on return from annual leave, acting on the theory that any vital emails should have been picked up by one of their colleagues.
The overwhelmingly positive response across social media channels, to a 'delete all' approach, raises some crucial concerns over the inefficiency of email. Emails can take up a huge part of a working day. An overflowing inbox can easily distract from more important tasks, resulting in many people spending large amounts of time managing emails through mobile devices, trying desperately to keep up.
However, there are strategies we can all take to manage our inbox and ensure we have more free time to be productive.
Five top tips to manage your inbox more efficiently
1. Delete first
Delete any unnecessary messages or spam. The inbox will then only have high-priority mail to respond to. Emails such as auto-alerts can be recognised from the subject line and usually require no action. Don't forget that moving messages to the trash bin doesn't permanently delete them and they can still be retrieved later in the day.
2. Only check your email when you have time to respond
Resist checking email on the run and only do so when there is time to actively respond to messages. It could be helpful to devote certain times of the day to checking email. Having a regular routine may relieve stress levels and increase the amount of time you have available during the day to complete more pressing tasks.
3. Keep messages organised
Email is a communication tool rather than a to-do list. It's important to file messages away as soon as possible. By responding to simple, urgent messages as soon as they are received, space can easily be freed up. File away the emails which you don't need in the appropriate folder and always flag emails that haven't been dealt with as unread.
4. Don't be afraid to communicate offline
Face-to-face communication or quick phone calls are the best ways to fully engage. It's important not to forget how effective speaking to people in person can be in our world of digital communication.
5. To receive less email, send less email
Make sure to only send necessary emails and use concise, clear language where possible. Hopefully then the responses received in return are equally as useful.
Where does the future of email lie?
While there are ways of helping to manage emails more efficiently, I think we will start to see a shift towards using technology that can replace emails with more time effective ways of communicating.
Enterprise cloud communication tools, for example, are already providing businesses with ways of allowing people to communicate as they would on email through persistent messaging. These sorts of solutions bring together elements of instant messaging, group chat and online communities into a group messaging application specifically for businesses. Because these tools are SaaS or platform based the messages don't fill up in an inbox. There is still the ability to go into the system at anytime, anywhere and catch up on conversations as the message history is always there.
Many businesses are using collaboration tools more often to comment, monitor, and talk about tasks and projects in a central location. Activity feeds provide a full audit trail of communication, which can be accessed and read wherever you are and prevents an inbox from getting clogged up.
With the technology that is increasingly available to us, a change in the way we communicate is ahead. Whilst email will continue to have its place, I believe that we will come to rely on it far less.