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email productivity woman looking at tablet

There are endless options for communication between groups: Slack, Skype, and the ever-present email, just to name a few. While the world has been searching for a more real-time, collaborative solution, email has refused to leave center stage. In 2015 and 2016, many news articles touted the upcoming “Death of Email” as a result of new platforms (such as Slack) gaining traction. But three years later, email is still here – alive and well.

Since the death of email is nowhere in sight, and as a result of my obsession with optimization, I read The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your Email Before It Manages You. If this form of communication is here to stay, I want to learn how to use it in the best way possible. This book has a lot of interesting insights into not only how you should write emails to save yourself time, but also how to write them so that your audience actually reads them and takes action.

This book has a goal of reducing the time you spent on email by 20% through email productivity hacks. It also has an interesting calculation for how much actual time this will save. For example, if you receive 100 emails a day (as many of us do) that’s 24,000 emails a year (accounting for only work days) and 100 24-hour days spent on emails. A reduction of 20% would give you 20 full days of your life back to spend on other pursuits by just making your email communication clearer.

So, how do we do this? Here are the main takeaways from this book to increase your productivity:

  1. The one touch rule: When you open an email, you must do something with it: delete it, archive it or forward it to the necessary team member with instructions. You should not open it and think “I’ll get back to this later.” That is just duplicating your efforts. When you open it, you must take action.
  1. Section it out: Most emails should have 3 different, succinct sections. Emails should avoid being a long block of solid text so as not to intimidate the reader and cause them to either not read it or have to skim. The sections should include:

a. Action summary: This should detail the specific action you’re asking for with a specific timeframe.

b. Background: This should include any additional information the recipient needs, ideally in bullets.

c. Close: Reiterate next steps.

  1. Subject line action: If a simple action needs to be taken in response to an email, include it in the subject line (e.g. “For Review: Wilson’s Report”).
  1. Repetition in response: Now, what tips could help you when you’re responding to someone else’s email (instead of writing your own)? Simply reiterate what they are asking you to do when you respond so there’s no confusion (e.g. “Yes, I will come to the meeting and bring the glazed donuts. Yum!”)

And that’s it! With these simple tips, you should decrease your time spent on email and increase your email productivity by eliminating duplicate efforts and communicating more effectively.


Also see: Technology ruining your productivity?

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