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The Zen Master's Guide to Email Productivity | Process Street | Checklist, Workflow and SOP Software

Quote the sender's email in chunks

  • Only use enough quotations to establish the context.
  • Your reply should come below it.
  • When possible, cut and reformat the quoted text.
  • Get tasks out of your email and into a task manager.

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The Zen Master's Guide to Email Productivity | Process Street | Checklist, Workflow and SOP Software

The Zen Master's Guide to Email Productivity | Process Street | Checklist, Workflow and SOP Software

https://www.process.st/email-productivity/

process.st

6

Key Ideas

Tips For Efficient Email Management

  • Unsubscribe from or filter away the stuff you never read.
  • Disable email push notifications on your phone.
  • Check emails twice per day to limit the time it takes to check and switch tasks while batch-processing your emails.
  • Structure your emails in blocks to allow for automation of parts of it.
  • Use canned responses for repeated answers.
  • Archive nonurgent messages to reduce your inbox.
  • Quote the sender’s email in chunks, replying to each section to avoid confusion.
  • Separate your to-do list from your inbox.
  • Use a pattern like ‘verb the noun with the object’ in your subject lines to make it more efficient for others to read it.
  • Clear your emails by the end of the day so things won’t accumulate for the next one.

Quote the sender's email in chunks

  • Only use enough quotations to establish the context.
  • Your reply should come below it.
  • When possible, cut and reformat the quoted text.
  • Get tasks out of your email and into a task manager.

Determine What The Sender Needs From You Asap

Ask yourself:

  • What’s the meaning and the value of the message?
  • What action does this message require of me?

Suggested Email Structure

  • Greeting
  • Pleasantry
  • How you got their details, call back and reason for email
  • Body Topic: Situation, Benefit, Call to Action
  • Closing line
  • Signature

Habits For Efficient Email Processing

  • Do – If it’s actionable, execute the task and archive.
  • Delegate – Forward it on.
  • Defer – Decide to do it later (snooze it until a concrete time).
  • Delete – If possible, do it to reduce your inbox.
  • File – If necessary, tag it and set a reminder for later to process items in that tag.

Tips To Reduce Frequent Email Checks

  • Check it at 11am and 4pm to make sure it isn’t the first thing you do (and get sucked into) and also so you have a clear inbox by the end of your day.
  • If your to-do list is already overflowing, add email checking times to your calendar.
  • Close your email software.
  • Don’t use an email browser client, because it will be too tempting.
  • Use a desktop app with no easily accessible shortcut.
  • Hide your email app on the last page of a folder full of apps you never go to.

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Some people like to use folders with specific actions (do, delegate, reply), while others prefer the deadline-driven approach (today, tomorrow, next week).

Power Up Your Email with Plugins

Some examples:

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... during the day can be an effective way to keep your inbox at manageable levels.

However, the constant interruption and distraction that comes from it can dramatically lower your productivity, and disrupt your ability to enter a state of flow when working on high value projects.

Reading Email
  • Try using the "Two-Minute Rule" when you read your mail: if the email will take less than two minutes to read and reply to, then take care of it right now, even if it's not a high priority.
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  • Realize that email triggers intermittent variable rewards. Our brains love pulling a lever (i.e. refreshing email) and knowing that the reward (i.e. the number of messages) will vary
When you do hit send, be precise

E-mail is not a substitute for conversations.

Avoid asking open-ended questions and save yourself from the “boomerang effect” (that’s when you invite more email into your inbox than you intended, as a result of having sent out an email in the first place). Be concise in your message and specify the TL;DR and/or requested action upfront.

Find the right downstream systems

The blockage is not email itself, but where all these messages should ultimately go, which requires setting up the right downstream systems.

As you process each message, give yourself five (and only five) options: responding directly or sending the item into whatever system you’re using to manage one of these four buckets.

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Ignore your inbox when you wake up

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Empty your inbox daily
  • Do. If the email is actionable and takes under two minutes, then do the task ASAP.
  • Delegate. Forward the right tasks to the right people.
  • Defer. Reply to the message at a better time.
  • Delete emails that are not important or that you can delegate. 
  • File. Add messages that contain information you will need to your archives.
Stop CC’ing everyone

To avoid filling the email box of staff members, only CC the relevant parties. Ask your team to respond to you individually instead of using the reply-to-all button.

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Zen to Done (ZTD)

It's a productivity system that teaches how to take a simple approach to improving your productivity, by encouraging you to focus on forming one productivity-boosting habit at a time. 

The Minimalist Habits of Zen to Done
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  • Process: Review your list daily and decide how to act on each item.
  • Plan: Pick a few high priority items to accomplish each week and every day.
  • Do: Schedule time to accomplish your selected to-dos without interruptions.
The Collect Habit

To clear your mind and improve focus, get your ideas and to-dos out of your mind and onto a list. 

Documenting to-dos in the moment lessens the likelihood that you'll forget to do something and gives you a master list of to-dos to reference when you're trying to decide where to direct your time.

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Marking Emails Unread

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Stick to a Routine

Getting out of the habit of checking email frequently can be tough. 

Check and respond to emails twice a day at a specific time. The rest of the day you can be dedicated to your work and not lose focus because of incoming messages.

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Most emails aren't important

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Most of our email is replied on the spot and has incomplete information, which leads to a lot of back and forth dialogue.

To minimize this, reply at a suitable time when you can provide sufficient details, clear action items, due date or deadline if any, and maybe an alternative.

Mindless Scrolling

We keep checking email, instant messages in our smartphones or office PC, and even social media, whenever we get the urge or any new notification.

Allotting specific times to check your phone's messages and email, like in a two to three-hour intervals, can boost your productivity by 40%.

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Cons of the time blocking practice
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  • Few of us (if any) have the same schedule every day.
  • We’re bad at estimating how long tasks will take to do.
  • Constant interruptions and “urgent” tasks can destroy your system.
  • Flexibility is key in most workplaces.
  • You can lose sight of the bigger picture if you focus just on each day.

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