Negative email experiences don't just impede productivity at work — they can also lead to stress and insomnia, according to a recent study from the University of Illinois Chicago.
In fact, email anxiety can sneak up on you even if you don't interact with the vast majority of unwanted emails. Superhuman's own research found that 30% of workers find unwanted messages and overflowing inboxes to be the most distracting part of their job.
With a vast majority of offices in North America having transitioned to remote work, email fatigue and email anxiety are going to be a huge deal in 2022. So how can you prepare yourself and your workplace to better handle this gathering storm? Let's talk about that now.
Does your inbox spark joy?
In 2021, Superhuman analyzed responses from well over a thousand knowledge workers for our Workplace Wellness Report. We found that email was the second most common source of distraction, limiting the productivity of over 25% of office workers and 27% of remote workers.
Do you compulsively check your phone every few minutes to find and respond to new email messages? You're not alone. Our survey found that presenteeism — the need to be always available and respond instantly to messages and communications — is the greatest threat to productivity and a top cause of email fatigue.
Luckily, your inbox doesn't need to be a dumpster fire. There's a scientific way to reduce the amount of junk email you receive, and it starts with three things: organizing your email account, using closed-loop communication techniques, and leveraging email clients and other productivity tools to stay on top of conversations without burning yourself out.
All of that together can help you achieve Inbox Zero — where your inbox is empty, or as close to empty as possible, at almost all times. Inbox Zero can be a difficult goal to achieve, but with the right tools and techniques, it's not impossible. In fact, it's what everyone who values their personal productivity should aspire to when thinking about email management.
Are you ready to take control of your email and quickly propel yourself toward Inbox Zero? Let's talk about how you can achieve that step by step.
Step 1: Declutter your inbox
The first step to reducing email fatigue is to reorganize your inbox and trim down the number of automated emails you receive. With that in mind, here are some general tips for decluttering your inbox easily:
- Always have separate email accounts for personal and professional use. Doing that will help you reduce stress and create boundaries between your work and personal lives.
- Have a system in place for organizing emails based on intent and purpose. Gmail already lets you divide your inbox into four predetermined categories, but Superhuman takes it a step further by letting you create your own categories via its Split Inbox feature.
- Use a system for prioritizing important messages so that they're quickly accessible at the top of your inbox. Email providers tend to automatically prioritize emails by date, but in Superhuman you can split your inbox into multiple categories to prioritize more effectively.
- If you want to keep your inbox manageable, unsubscribe from any and all marketing emails you don't need. For the few that you need to stay subscribed to, consider creating separate categories for automated messages and those from actual humans.
- Spam email is a scourge on inbox management. Gmail uses its own filters to flag and remove spammers and suspicious emails, but you can also improve the accuracy of the filters by using the "report spam" feature to flag junk mail that slips through the cracks. Even better, you can block senders directly to stop receiving emails from them. With a productivity tool like Superhuman, you can also block unwanted senders and unsubscribe from entire domains in just a couple of keystrokes.
Step 2: Send closed-loop emails
With the right tools and practices, anyone can block emails coming from unsolicited spammers and other automated sources. But what about those neverending email threads between colleagues and collaborators? Is there a trick to avoiding that unnecessary back and forth?
Closed-loop emailing uses conversational techniques to avoid misunderstandings and keep email chains brief and manageable. From the subject line at the top of the email to the signature at the very bottom, they help you send smarter messages and close the loop on infinite follow-ups.
Want to learn more? Here are some tips for optimizing your emails for better closed-loop communication:
- Don't answer every email right away. Tiago Forte, the author of Building a Second Brain, says this: "Go slightly beyond your normal response time. If you normally respond within an hour, try to respond within a day." Low reactivity reinforces the value of your response and makes sure you aren't taken for granted.
- Anticipate and answer common questions. Do you offer a product or service? Make a list of all the commonly asked questions that your customers might have and answer them on your website's FAQ. Superhuman lets you use the Snippets feature to create customizable email templates for things like saying thank you or declining a meeting.
- Respond with succinct declarations. Instead of ending your emails with more questions, respond with clear and concrete declarations to reduce the number of future messages you receive. Open-ended messages encourage people to continue the email chain, whereas those that end with declarative statements help close the loop faster.
- Know when to go face-to-face. Not all conversations are meant to be had over email. Spontaneous conversations with a lot of back and forth are better reserved for face-to-face meetings. Whether you conduct these meetings physically or over a video call, being able to see the other participants' faces can help people decide faster.
- Create a better email culture at work. Whether you're a project manager, executive, or individual contributor, it's part of your job to create a better communication culture in the workplace. Have separate communication channels for instant and asynchronous communication, and don't expect a response immediately unless absolutely necessary. At Superhuman, we encourage our team to switch off their email notifications — as long as they respond within 24 hours.
Step 3: Use email productivity tools
Unfortunately, even if you follow all this advice to a tee, email overload can still be a problem if you have a demanding job with multiple team members spread across different time zones.
That's where email productivity tools come in.
There are many different types of email productivity apps, but they all have one common goal. They aim to help you minimize distractions and manage email correspondence more efficiently. They range from analytics tools that provide insights into your email habits to shared calendars for scheduling meetings directly from your email inbox.
EmailAnalytics lets you monitor people's email habits so that you can track them each time they open and engage with your emails. Meanwhile, Clockwise is a shared calendar add-on that works with Google Calendar and Gmail to help you optimize your schedule.
Then, there's Superhuman — a powerful email productivity platform. With Superhuman's Split Inbox feature, you can sort email into different streams: by sender, project, or any criteria you like.
You can process messages one stream at a time and never miss an important email again. Superhuman uses artificial intelligence to prioritize the most important emails in your inbox so that you can tackle them first. It even has an Undo Send feature that lets you recall erroneous messages after you hit send!
Meet Superhuman — the world's most efficient email client
Choosing the right email productivity tool can be tough, especially when you have so many different options. There's a different tool for every purpose, and before you know it, your inbox is a dumping ground for third-party add-ons and applications.
However, if you're looking for an all-in-one email client that will take care of email triage and scheduling as well as accelerate your responsiveness, Superhuman can help! We reverse-engineered the AI-driven spam filters used by Gmail so they automatically triage and prioritize your most important conversations. Get started today and see why we're the platform of choice for so many Silicon Valley executives and Fortune 500 companies.