How to reduce your time spent in email by 15%

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Email sucks.

Each day we have a finite amount of time. We will never rid ourselves of work, tasks, people, and events we label as a waste of time. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to make the most of each day. If you had to guess how much time you spent on email each day, what do you think the percentage is? The McKinsey Global Institute found the average employee spends 28% of their time reading and responding to email. 28% of your workday is too much to spend on email.

I spend 12.5% or less of my workday reading and responding to email.

That’s 15% less than what McKinsey found. Here’s how I do it.

Develop some boundaries.

On my best days, I check email twice in two 30-minute blocks.

I need boundaries with email. Without them, I can waste an exorbitant amount of time on stuff that really doesn’t matter. When it comes to your professional and personal life, what are you most proud of? Most likely, it has nothing to do with email. So if that is true, but you also see email as a necessary evil, the next best solution is to put some constraints on email. Two times might not feel like enough for you. Maybe it’s three. Find what works for you.

Avoid at all costs:

  • Turning notifications on
  • Keeping your inbox open in your web browser
  • Or checking your email each time you pick up your phone.

Boundaries for email are beautiful.

Automate what you can.

I have been a Sanebox user since 2019. It was worth the investment. Sanebox uses machine learning to identify what email is and is not important. Its filtering works and if you find that an important email skipped your priority inbox, or vice versa, you can train Sanebox to do exactly what you want.

There are many nifty features:

Sane Blackhole: Even easier than one-click unsubscribe. Newsletters that you no longer read, spam, or communication with your mother-in-law — whatever kind of email you don’t want to ever see again goes in this folder. Poof. Emails from this sender will never see the light of day.

SaneNews: This is where all my newsletters go. I scan once a day.

SaneLater: Email identified as unimportant are filtered here. I scan this folder once a day.

You can even set up do not disturb hours to keep your inbox free of any inbound messages.

These three folders alone protect my focus and keep the most important emails for my inbox. In fact, last week Sanebox saved me 3.3 hours of my life. I also like that the graphic below shows the amount of important vs unimportant email I receive.

Sanebox used to sponsor my podcast. Click here to try it out for free and get a $25 credit. I do not make any money off you signing up. I actually wanted to see if the landing page still works. It does, so I’m passing on the deal to you.

Handoff what you can.

My assistant Abby handles some email for me. She helps me schedule podcast interviews and coaching calls. She is in charge of the follow-up with podcasts guests and coaching clients as well. There are tools that would automate this process, but I like the human touch in communication. Plus it gives me satisfaction knowing that I can help Abby provide for her family.

If possible, handoff as many emails as you can to someone on your team. Look for recurring emails you get. Coach up your team on how to respond to certain situations. After consistent coaching and feedback, they can own this for you which frees you up to focus on more important work.

It’s up to you to apply these rules. Would you rather waste up to 28% of your workday on email or would you focus on more important work?

Host of the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast with over one million downloads 🚀