As a Product Manager you can’t afford to waste time.
Email sucks up your time for a number of reasons. You may read the same email multiple times. You may be tempted to respond immediately to messages as they come in. You may allow emails to get you off track from doing what is most important. Not to mention the fact that having an overwhelming amount of email is just plain stressful.
I get about 100 valid (non-spam) emails a day. Over the years I’ve read several books on how to manage email and have come up with a system that works pretty well. Here are the highlights:
- Only check email three times a day. When you first arrive. Right after lunch and right before you leave.
- Turn off outlook notifications – they just tempt you to be distracted.
- Process email rapidly and empty your mail box. Try to process it as quickly as you can. For each email immediately decide to delete it, write a quick and short response (if it will take less than a minute), file it to read later or, if it will require a lengthy response, turn it into a task (drag it down to the bottom left corner of Outlook, drop it on the task menu and choose to save it as a task with an attachment.)
- Send short responses quickly. Don’t spend a lot of time writing and rewriting your responses.
- Use keyboard shortcuts. In Outlook Alt s saves and sends your email, F9 sends and receives for all accounts and Ctrl1 gets you to email, Ctrl2 to calendar, Ctrl3 to contacts.
- Avoid jumping in on long threads – oftentimes they work themselves out within a few responses. Let other people chime in – wait and see if they can resolve the issues. If the thread continues wait and read all responses at once. You’d be surprised how many times things just work themselves out if you just resist the urge to instantly jump in.
- Turn long responses into tasks. If an email response needs a long time and lots of thought to write turn it into one of your high priority “A” items for the day (see previous article on prioritizing).
- Save all email that you want to read but doesn’t require a response for later. Read it once a week when you are out of energy or not motivated to do other work (Friday afternoon is a great time to do this).
- Clean out your email each night and before you leave for the weekend. This is another great thing to do on Friday afternoon. You will be amazed at what a relief it is to start your evening or weekend without the burden of email hanging over your head, and it will make starting the next morning much more pleasant.
I’ve found that by using these ideas I can usually keep the time I spend on email down to less than thirty minutes a day.