A management objective that never seems to get old is the need to drive greater levels of efficiency and productivity. From an employer's perspective, leaders recognize that there is a lot competing for an employee's attention that is both work and non-work related during a business day. From attending meetings, wading through a flood of emails, distractions from worrying about finances, a troubling health or relationship situation -- there is a plethora of distractions at play.
One distraction that remains a consistent time drainer involves the ineffective use of email. Increasingly, employers are looking to find ways to provide support for employees to make the most of their workday. Although there are various means of communication that have surfaced in recent years from texting, instant messaging to collaboration apps, it is email that still holds center stage as a key form of exchanging information.
Email tends to be passive and non-confrontational and therefore is a popular way to communicate any time of day. In addition, it is tempting for employees to constantly check their email inbox and avoid tackling their most important tasks. In Brian Tracy's book, Eat That Frog, he talks about the importance of addressing your biggest ugliest frog (your most pressing and important task) as your first order of business in each workday and building a healthy addiction toward completing what you start before allowing yourself to be distracted by less important email time wasters.
An employee can get the sense that sufficient work is being done when (s)he constantly responds to email messages during the day. Unfortunately, this is a sure-fire method to avoid addressing goals and projects that really count.
To help combat the follies of email, here are some tips to help foster greater levels of productivity:
1) Try to keep your email inbox at zero each day. A great method for doing this is the "D" method as per Michael Hyatt who describes being an email ninja as:
• Do – If it’s actionable, do the task right now.
• Delegate – Forward it to the correct person.
• Defer – Decide to do it later.
• Delete – If you don’t need it for later, drop it like a bad habit.
• File – Add it to your archives for later reference
2) Book time in your schedule when you DON'T check email. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on your projects and pressing work. Put your smartphone out of reach and out of sight. Many productivity experts only check email twice a day.
3) When using email consider how you engage with it. Do you make the subject clear and the points in your correspondence actionable? Do you proofread your message before sending? Do you make it polite and actionable so that the recipient has a clear sense for what you're sharing and why? Do you include only those people who need to be part of the email or do you cast a wider net?
4) Try to keep to only one subject as the topic of your email and if possible and appropriate -- pick up the phone or walk over the person and have a conversation instead or in addition to sending the email. Remember that email messages don't communicate tone and can be easily misinterpreted.
Each of us only has 168 hours in a week to pack in every aspect of the experiences and things we do in our workday and personal life. Help employees make the most of their workday so their confidence grows and productivity soars. For more tips and resources, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.