On the one hand, email is critical—the most important source of communication in today’s interconnected world. But on the other hand, email is one of the biggest productivity drains around.
According to Adobe, employees spend 209 minutes each day checking work email—almost three and a half hours. Add in another 143 minutes checking personal email each day and the total time spent in our inboxes reaches nearly six hours.
That’s astounding, but also not surprising. In 2020, the world’s four billion mail users sent more than 300 billion messages per day. That’s an average of around 75 emails per person, per day—and, year over year, that number keeps rising.
Many chalk up that steady increase to the nature of remote work, which remains a reality for millions because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But giving in to the email deluge while spending so much time paying attention to our email inboxes can have negative consequences on other types of work. The other side of that coin—neglecting our email inbox—can lead to cybersecurity issues, as well.
That makes the following 7 tips so important. Whether you use enterprise-grade Microsoft Outlook, the most popular business application in the world, or free web-based email with fewer security measures, you can regain control of your inbox—and your time.
1. Schedule time for checking and answering emails.
The first step to email sanity is not spending your whole day staring at your inbox. Set aside a block of time in the morning to catch up on messages, then minimize or close your email until lunch or late afternoon, when you can return to it with a fresh perspective. If you like to keep up with incoming messages more often, give yourself 5 or 10-minute windows each hour to do so.
2. Do something with each message.
If you’re overwhelmed by the number of unread messages in your inbox, take this step seriously. Instead of leaving thousands of emails to sit untouched, take some kind of action with each message: either respond to it quickly, file it in a folder, flag it for follow-up, or delete it if it’s unneeded. Your goal might b inbox zero or just a more streamlined organizational structure—no matter what, try not to let hundreds of emails pile up.
3. Get familiar with the search function.
Many of us are guilty of keeping unnecessary emails because we want to be able to find them when they’re needed. But the search function in applications like Microsoft Outlook is powerful. It can locate messages based on sender name, subject line, body copy, attachment type, date, and other criteria. Try limiting your search to the Sent folder if you need to find your own words; search specific folders if you know what project a message might apply to. What you don’t want to do is spend hours scrolling in search of one email thread.
4. Activate multi-factor authentication (MFA) on every email account.
As cybersecurity problems increase, this has become a must for true online protection. MFA requires something you know (your password) and something you have (usually a unique code delivered by text, or a push notification from a dedicated app) to log in to commonly used accounts. That offers an extra layer of security in case one of your passwords becomes compromised and hackers attempt to infiltrate your inbox.
5. Use caution with unknown attachments.
If you receive a message that contains a file but you aren’t familiar with the sender or weren’t expecting the attachment, proceed with caution. This is one of the most common ransomware schemes, as all it takes is one user clicking on one illicit document or malicious link to infect computers, networks, and even entire office systems. If you receive a suspicious file from a known sender, respond to them and ask about it before clicking.
6. Turn off notifications and protect your time by using “do not disturb.”
Email connects us to colleagues around the world and across time zones. The downside of that, however, is an overwhelming “always-on” feeling that can detract from focused work time and keep us tied to our inboxes late at night and early in the morning. Luckily, it’s easy to turn off email notifications, on computers and smartphones. Applications like Outlook also have strong “do not disturb” settings that can prevent you from being pinged when an email lands in your inbox during off-hours.
7. Protect your email account.
If you’re using Microsoft 365, this cloud-based protection comes built-in. Messages stored on the laptop version of Outlook will also be available on your phone, and strong archiving secures your information in case of hardware failure or natural disaster. If you’re still using free web-based email services, you need to take action now to move your messages to a more protected environment with reliable data backup. If email communication is the lifeblood of your business, treat it with the importance it deserves.
Are you feeling bogged down in your inbox? Are your employees scrambling to keep up with a flood of messages? Have you suffered the cybersecurity consequences of poor email security in the past? CMIT Solutions can help.
We help our clients optimize their organization, licenses, and calendars. We monitor our clients’ email applications to eliminate downtime. We empower your employees to work smarter, not harder.
If you’re looking for reliable service, steady support, and trusted advice, contact CMIT Solutions today.