I’ve seen a lot of blog posts recently about how companies are banning emails or only allowing employees to check them at certain times of the day because apparently they are a distraction and decrease productivity.

The theory is that people spend too much time looking through the barrage of emails they receive and less time doing actual work.

One article even called email a form of ‘knowledge pollution’.

The thing is, if your email is distracting you to the point where it’s stopping you from working, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

Or rather, you’re getting the wrong emails.

Email is simply a communication tool, so if it’s becoming an issue then maybe it’s the content that’s the problem, not the tool itself.

If you’re getting emails from customers repeating the same questions, clients making unreasonable requests, colleagues trying to dump their work on you, requests from a demanding or unreasonable boss, or strangers asking you for favours, then the problem is in the real world, not in your email.

If you think that flashing email notification is wasting your time, try these tips:

  • Create a FAQ page on your website to answer any customer questions
  • Set up your email to send out canned replies to commonly asked questions
  • Delegate tasks or clients to other colleagues who should be handling it
  • If client is consistently unreasonable, consider that maybe they’re the wrong client for your business
  • If your boss is consistently unreasonable, ask yourself if this is the right job for you?
  • If colleagues are crossing the line with their requests, deal with them directly
  • Only sign up for mailing lists that have value or provide you with information that you need
  • If you’re getting emails that you automatically forward to a different person, organise for that person to get them directly.

This will mean you only get emails that you want or ones you need to action yourself.

Spam filtering on email is pretty good these days, but if your other emails aren’t providing you with any value, why do you get them?

Sure, if you have something important to focus on, by all means turn off notifications or sign out of your accounts, but at the end of the day you have to make email work for you.

In order words, if you create a system that gives you only the information you need, email will become less of a distraction and more of an asset.

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