Hacking Your Email: 7 Tips to Ensure Emails Don't Derail Your Workflow

Hacking Your Email: 7 Tips to Ensure Emails Don't Derail Your Workflow

Emails can be the worst. They're essential to workplace communications, but they can quickly derail your workflow. How many times has a five-minute email check turned into you moving away from your to-do list and jumping into another task you didn't intend to start until later?

Emails are a time-stealer. A recent and staggering survey found that email fatigue could lead to 38% of workers quitting their jobs . In your role as a project manager, your email is likely pulling you in the direction of vendors, clients, and co-workers. How do you stay focused and still effectively manage your email communications?

Here are some handy tips for ensuring your emails don't disrupt your daily workflow consistently.

Turn off Email Notifications

This tip may seem counterintuitive to staying on top of workplace communications, but it can lead you to a more productive outcome.

Have you ever been engaged in deep work, and a notification breaks your concentration? Your intention may be to stay up-to-date on work emails, but you may be finding it hard to stay focused since you know an email has entered your inbox.

Email notifications make it hard to control your schedule as they can create the temptation to stop what you're doing and immediately check your email.

Not only do email notifications impact your ability to focus and get work done, but those constant "pings" can even affect the way your brain works. A study by researchers at Korea University revealed that smartphone alerts could change your brain chemistry and even reduce its efficiency by 40%.

So, consider turning off or delaying email notifications to take more control over your workflow. It can do wonders for your focus and productivity.

Have a Set Time to Check Emails

So, what are your options if you decide to turn off the notifications? A great way to stay on top of your emails and regain control of your schedule is by establishing a set time to check emails.

Set up a time that best works for you to run through the most important messages in your inbox, and ensure that this time coincides with your workflow.

You may determine that morning time is the best time since you can add any directives that you see from emails to your to-do list. On the other hand, answering emails in the middle or at the end of the day can give you a jump on activities that you can schedule to handle tomorrow.

If you want to organize this process further, you can even set up an alarm on your phone that notifies you to check your email throughout the day.

Again, this move enables you to check emails at a time that is the most convenient for you and your workflow.

Try Out an Instant Messaging App for Urgent Messaging

Emails can cause you to suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and thinking that you are going to miss an urgent directive. A way to overcome this is by using a communication platform to handle messaging that requires a quick response so you can direct less time-critical messaging to your email.

Try investing in workplace instant messaging or chat platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Using these tools lets you be sure that you have a medium for receiving instant messaging, so you don't feel like you're missing out on correspondence you need for your workday.

Alternatively, you can use email to archive pivotal conversations about projects, start conversations with a new client, and send private documentation like contracts.

Instant workplace messaging is synchronous communication, while email is considered asynchronous communication. Knowing when to use each type can also help you improve your workplace communication and collaboration experiences.

While it will be necessary for you to ensure that instant messaging doesn't interrupt your routine, knowing what communications to use email for and when to use instant messaging can bring some regularity to your schedule.

Prioritize Your Email Messages

Shift your goal of emptying your inbox each day to answering the most critical messages daily. For example, let's say that you always notice a barrage of emails coming in on Tuesday mornings.

Instead of answering every email, start prioritizing each one based on who the sender is and the topic. You may find that some messaging doesn't require immediate attention, while others may need a response sooner rather than later.

Also, don't forget the tools your email provides to help you do this. Many email clients allow you to categorize your emails by priority level. You can even use task management tools like Asana, Trello, or Monday.com to remind you to remember to respond to messages at a specific time.

The goal of running through your emails is to find and respond to the messages that will help you move through your job tasks most effectively.

Get Ahead of Workplace Communications

If you know you have a colleague or client who sends emails if they don't receive a project update on a specific day, you can get ahead of that communication by sending an email.

Start to look at the patterns of email communications. You'll start to notice the rhythm of your email messaging throughout the week. So, start monitoring who sends the most emails and their subject matter. This information will allow you to create a plan for taking care of these regular correspondences.

You may decide to send your colleague a quick instant message detailing where you are in your current project. On the other hand, you may email a client with a list of what you're working on, with a scheduled video call to go over any details they have a question about.

Schedule a Video or Phone Call

It's too easy to fall into a back-and-forth email thread. How often has a client asked a question about something, only to follow up your reply with another question? Sometimes, you can cut down on an extended email thread by simply picking up the phone or scheduling a video call.

Not only do you benefit from cutting down on emails, but you can also ensure the clarity of your messaging.

Today, it's much easier to integrate video conferencing tools like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and others into your workplace communications.

According to cloud solutions company, Lifesize, 89% of respondents to their productivity survey said that video conferencing decreases time to complete projects.

As we continue into a work culture dominated by remote and hybrid work, it will be even more critical to recognize when a phone or video call is the best way to facilitate collaboration and communication.

Shake Off Any Stress from the Sender

We've all been there. You are sitting in front of your inbox and reading a message that has a hint of urgency to it. Seeing this email — whether from a client, vendor, or colleague — can cause you to change your to-do list and drop everything to address the messaging in that email.

If this has happened to you, you aren't alone. Researchers in a University of California, Irvine study found that people answered emails hastily when under stress and with less care.

As hard as it might be, it would help if you tried to look over the emotion and perceived stress from the email messaging and not let it shake your routine. You can handle this by quickly acknowledging the email, letting the sender know when you will reply, and then adding it to your to-do list for the day.

It's tempting to let the emotions of others impact how you approach your workday, but an acknowledgment of the issue and a follow-up plan can decrease the stress and anxiety so you can properly manage the request.

It's Possible to Hack Your Email Strategy to Improve Productivity

It may seem impossible at times, primarily when we depend on digital communications to get through the workday. Nevertheless, email can become an asset to your work routine instead of a liability.

The takeaway here is that you don't have to have your email open all day or switch over to your inbox the second you hear a notification.

Your goal should be to make your email communications complement your work style and ensure you have the information you need to accomplish your work goals.


Email is Making us Miserable, https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/e-mail-is-making-us-miserable

Survey Finds Email Fatigue Could Lead 38% of Workers to Quit Their Jobs, https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/2021/04/21/survey-finds-email-fatigue-could-lead-38-of-workers-to-quit-their-jobs/?sh=29e4fa3d25d9

Smartphone Addiction Creates Imbalance in Brain, https://press.rsna.org/timssnet/media/pressreleases/14_pr_target.cfm?id=1989

When to Choose Synchronous Vs. Asynchronous Communication, https://www.loom.com/blog/synchronous-vs-asynchronous

Video Conferencing Statistics for 2019, https://www.lifesize.com/en/blog/video-conferencing-statistics/