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Tips from Google’s chief productivity officer to avoid email fatigue

Much has been said in the last year about what is known as Zoom-fatigue but managing, responding, and keeping your email inbox up to date can also be a stressful task.

Although email applications tend to incorporate tools that allow important emails to be distinguished and even categorize and classify them by folders, the volume of communications handled by email is still abundant.

That email could have been a call

Because, while it is true that there are meetings that could have been resolved with an email, there are emails that could well have been a mere conversation, in the opinion of Laura Mae Martin, Google’s director of productivity.

But the pandemic and telecommuting have meant that many of those informal hallway conversations now end up in our inbox.

“E-mail has been inflated in such a way that it has become the communication method that used to be face-to-face”, assures this person in charge.

The key is to classify

This manager believes that the best way to work with email is by managing and classifying it, ideally in separate inboxes and grouping them by subject or similar issues.

Martín compares this process to doing laundry. “Imagine opening the dryer, taking out a shirt, folding it, and taking it to the dresser. That would be ineffective. Or imagine finding a pair of wet pants, leaving them with dry clothes, and leaving homework for tomorrow. This is how most people manage their email, sending one email at a time and keeping things in their inboxes too long, “he says.

Follow these steps

Going a little more to the bottom of the matter, Google’s director of productivity establishes some guidelines and steps to follow to do good email management

  • List your inbox in a prominent place, before starting your daily tasks.
  • Remove from this place any messages that you do not need to see at the moment, such as newsletters, promotions, and others (here it recommends unsubscribing or creating a rule or filter within the application so that it directly sends them to a separate inbox).
  • Flag emails are very important. “If the CEO of your company sends you an email, it should look different,” says Martin.
  • Use the VIP tags that many email platforms provide to flag those messages that need immediate attention. These first two steps will help start the sorting process and separate the clutter from the important.

What to do with the mail

This manager also recommends reserving some of our time each morning to handle email.

According to her, one of the reasons why email causes us stress is because we do not consider it just another task, but something that we must be aware of, so we try to adapt it to other matters that are tasks. So Martin suggests spending 20 minutes each morning checking email, another 20 minutes after lunch, and a while before leaving work to tidy up your inbox. We should always start with the oldest message and decide if it is something that you can delete or archive.

If we cannot do that, then we should classify the message into three possible folders.

  • Something you must do. In this case, and if this task does not take us more than two minutes, we should complete it. If not, we should move it to one of the other two folders
  • Something you need to read
  • Something that is waiting for more information or response.

These two folders can be reviewed during the rest of our workday. Martin says that he usually takes advantage of silly moments (such as those in which he does not have much energy or when a meeting ends earlier) to review these two folders

Not afraid to close the email

Finally, this person in charge assures that “many people are afraid to close the email”, but recognizes not only that it is something that she does, but that it is even necessary. ” The head needs that concentration time to finish non-email work projects,” he says.

Google’s advice has been followed by many Google employees and, according to an inter-survey, they feel they have recovered 19% of their time by applying these guidelines.

” Email is not your job; it is a vehicle that should help to do it ”, he explains. “This is how you get the information. The change in mentality is in how you manage it. “