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Tips to Reclaim Time Spent Managing Email

A massive study done by McKinsey in 2012 found that professionals spent 28 percent of working time reading, writing and responding to emails. While emerging social media was, at the time, expected to naturally push this number down, some companies like Atos went all in, adopting bold zero-email initiatives.

Reflecting back, now a decade later, reveals a different and somewhat unexpected outcome: Email use is alive and well. And is perhaps consuming even more of our working hours.

Large amounts of previously in person communication have been pushed to remote methods by the COVID-19 pandemic and marketing statistics show that email marketing, done correctly, is still highly effective. As a result, many argue that email use may be stronger (and more cumbersome) than ever.

Given that the magnitude of time required for diligent email management is still a top three complaint by our financial advisor clients, here are some tips for streamlining the process and reclaiming some of that time.

  1. Check email less often—using scheduled blocks The same McKinsey study found that 84 percent of professionals leave their email open and running in the background while they work, checking email an average of 11 times per hour. By constantly toggling between a task and incoming email, and having to spend up to 64 seconds each time to reorient to the task at hand, up to 2 hours of productivity can be lost each DAY! Plus, HBR reports that only 11 percent of clients expect a response within an hour, which means checking a few times a day will still allow you to exceed responsiveness expectations for most folks.

  2. Streamline your email filing system We all have emails we want to reference later. For years, I’ve been teaching a super simplified system for email archiving that uses only two folders for each year: sent items and deleted items, by year. You’ll invariably know whether something you’re looking for was sent to you, or whether it was something you sent to someone else. By ultimately funneling all emails into one of two places, you can find nearly anything with a simple sort (by date, subject, sender or recipient) and, if needed, a keyword search, saving hours each week setting up a filing system and sorting and filing emails accordingly.

  3. Receive fewer emails Easier said than done, a few things that can make this dream a reality include: unsubscribing from unneeded lists, using filters and rules to automatically redirect non-urgent or low-priority communications and making it easy for your clients to reach out to team members directly for items in their domain.

  4. Create templated responses to common topics and questions Taking an extra minute to draft a response that also works as a template, and then saving that template in a convenient place so that you can use it again with some minor customization, can be a huge time saver.

  5. Clear your inbox We have a tendency to rely on search functions but underestimate the time we take sorting and rereading the backlog of emails, which can be a time-waster that grows with our inbox.

Christy Charise, Founder & CEO of Strategic Advisor

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