Email is a proven cause of stress in - and, for that matter, out of - the workplace. Talk to any of your colleagues and they will say they get too many emails, they manage it in different ways, and it’s a massive drain on their already limited time.
However, the communication medium remains alive and kicking and stronger than ever. One of our recent blogs explored why it is so maligned and pinpointed businesses’ poor email etiquette as a contributing factor. However, another major player in this is personal productivity.
The power of being more productive
The more productive you are, the happier you will feel. Everyone loves the feeling of getting something done, crossing another item off the to-do list, and there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re falling behind.
The construction, architecture and engineering industries are particularly affected by this, given workers are especially time-poor and plagued by late nights, long working hours and tight deadlines.
Productivity is a marathon, not a sprint
However, like in all areas of life, progressing towards goals helps you to improve. Take fitness, for example. You wouldn’t step out the door tomorrow morning and try to run a marathon without having taken small, progressive steps and training your body up to be able to cope with such a feat.
Likewise, becoming more productive is no small task, especially when there are a number of friction points holding you back. Email is one of these. It’s a proven leading stressor and a significant productivity drain. And, considering that project-based businesses are heavily reliant on email to get work done on time and within budget, that’s a major problem.
To prevent projects from falling behind on time and ensuring they are completed within budget, it’s important for people to improve their productivity levels. With that in mind, here are our top hacks for enhancing productivity:
Prioritise the most important tasks: Everyone has their own way of sorting their most crucial tasks from those that would be nice to complete. Consider the two or three things that actually make a difference, contribute to your success and generate revenue. Then eliminate all the extra ‘stuff’ to ensure you reap the benefits of only focusing on the tasks that matter.
Reduce ‘housekeeping’ time: That said, as much as we’d all like to focus solely on these most important tasks, we all have other things we need to do. But, to keep productivity levels up, it’s important to have a plan for when you’re going to do them. Rather than spreading those activities throughout the day or, worse still, doing them as and when they pop up, try to organise them into a preplanned block of time. That way, you’ll still feel productive and feel like you’re achieving something.
Streamline the to-do list: An unfinishable to-do list of 20 to 30 items is daunting and will only ensure your productivity levels dwindle. Instead, try to make a would like to-do list, then pick the top three of four most important, then the most important, that will provide the biggest reward, or are more achievable. Make that your to-do list and get the job done.
Reduce meeting times: Meetings are one of the biggest drains and productivity levels. Indeed, whoever imposed the one-hour standard meeting time in calendar software is singlehandedly responsible for wasting millions of people hours. In fact, most meetings can be handled in as little as 15 minutes, if a meeting is even required at all.
Use your calendar: Everyone is well-accustomed to scheduling meetings and appointments, so why not go a step further and use those same tools to block out times for completing specific tasks. Create time periods for writing new proposals, drafting presentations or reviewing marketing materials.
Manage your distractions: Minimising the unnecessary distractions, such as phone alerts, email notifications and pop-up chat windows is important as every alert diverts your attention. So go alert-free and take a few minutes per hour to check what you may have missed - the chances are it’s nothing and in the meantime, you’ll have been more focused. But remember, it’s also vital to take time to give yourself the necessary distractions.
Take it offline: Richard Branson has said he wouldn't have been able to build Virgin without a notebook, which he takes with him wherever he goes. How many great ideas have you forgotten? Ultra-productive people free their minds by writing everything down.
The need to focus on personal productivity is at an all-time high, so it’s important to prioritise the most important tasks and have a plan in place to make the best use of your time. Just remember, in the words of the great Bruce Lee, ‘If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.’
Email remains a constant factor in this. It may be a major cause of stress but, with the right productivity hacks and the right software, it can also be an important tool in helping you be as productive as possible.
Mail Manager is the innovative Outlook add-in that enables businesses to be more productive in their email management. The tool reduces the time and complexity of filing and searching for emails and attachments and gives you peace of mind that your important data is safe and easily discoverable.
Personal productivity is particularly relevant during these uncertain times. Listen to our podcast with Jo Dodds, an employee engagement and personal productivity consultant, to hear about how businesses can better engage a remote workforce and how remote workers can be more productive.