You’re Spending 2 Hours a Day on Email; 5 Ways to Get the Time Back

Graphic: Better email through research.

If you had to guess how much time you spend emailing on any given day, what would you say? 30 minutes? An hour?

It’s closer to 2 hours.

A study by McKinsey Global Institute and International Data Corp. found that more than 25 percent of a normal office worker’s day is spent on email.

Which is insane.

Fortunately, there are some research-backed guidelines that can help you restore sanity. Becoming better at email can help you spend less time emailing, which means more time getting things done.

Here are five tips to help you.

1. Ask Simple Questions

Problem: When those emails are long and filled with complicated questions, the replies can take a while to come, if they show up at all.

Solution: Keep your emails direct. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people are more likely to reply to an email when the task is easy to address.

2. Check Less Often

Problem: Most people live in an instant email world. Studies have shown that the average worker allows him or herself to be interrupted every five minutes by email. These interruptions kill productivity.

Solution: Check email only every 45-60 minutes. Make sure that email notifications are turned off on your computer as well as your phone. Set aside 5-10 minutes to triage your email then get to work on the tasks at hand.

Unless you work at a job that relies on immediate email, this should be more than enough checking to get your workday done.

3. Tighten Your Subject Lines

Problem: You send emails out for every issue and project, yet it seems that nobody is opening the emails.

Solution: Change the wording.

Word your subject lines better. A report from Adestra shows that something as simple as changing the wording of a subject line to say “Alert” instead of “Report” can increase open rates as much as 35 percent.

Another example is for updates. Using the word “Update” in your subject line gives you almost a 27 percent higher open rate than using “This Week” or “Latest.”

Using words that make people want to open your emails will get your content read more often, even when talking about interoffice email.

4. Format Your Email For Phones

Illustration of a person using a smart phone.

Problem: Studies show that 47 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device.

Solution: Format your email to be read easily on a phone.

  • Keep paragraphs short, ideally only 1-3 sentences.
  • Minimize formatting. Bullets and numbered lists don’t always show up correctly.
  • Keep images to a minimum. If you’re attaching screen shots, give a brief rundown what each is before the shot itself. If a picture Is large, it may very well not display properly on the phone, so the description would be the only way to see it.

5. Be Conversational — It Worked for the President

Problem: We turn people off because we write like a robot.

Solution: Be conversational.

Hey, it worked for the president. In Barack Obama’s second Presidential election his campaign staff paid attention to email rules and best practices when sending fundraising emails. As BusinessWeek points out, keeping the tone conversational was hugely effective.



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