How to Work Outside of Email
…Even When Your Inbox Is Filling Up
It’s 8AM on a Monday and your inbox is flooded with 100+ emails — *ahhh!*
You had a list of top-priority items you wanted to get done today, but rather than tackling some of those bigger to-dos, you start going through each email. By the time you’re nearly halfway through the onslaught of unread requests, you look at the clock and half the day is gone.
Even though answering emails from clients, media and vendors is an important part of our responsibilities as PR and digital professionals, taking a step back and really evaluating your priorities will help you utilize your time more wisely.
Here are some helpful things to keep in mind to help prioritize your workflow daily.
PR, NOT ER
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to remember we’re in PR, not ER. Responding to people is important, but taking the time to respond professionally, intelligently and with thoughtful solutions and recommendations is what makes you a valuable partner for your clients and colleagues. Give yourself and your coworkers permission to take a moment, think critically and reply accordingly.
Big vs. Little Projects
Before diving into your inbox, identify your priorities for the day. Ask yourself: What are your big, time-intensive projects? What absolutely needs to be done today? What small tasks can wait until tomorrow? Defining your projects by their size and importance will help you stay productive. Filter what can be done within 30 minutes and what projects require at least an hour. Once you sort your projects out, prioritize them by urgency. Even though you might have a lot of little tasks you can tackle quickly, you need to focus on what really needs to be done first. Of course, you don’t want to procrastinate and push everything to the next day if you have time, but realizing not everything in your inbox is due that day will alleviate stress.
Before getting overwhelmed and sucked into emails all morning, start some of the more meaningful big projects that you need to get done for the day. Throughout the day, every hour or two, give yourself 15 minutes to check your email. Try to hold yourself to those 15 minutes, filtering through what needs to be answered and what can wait. Giving yourself little time slots throughout the day to check emails will help you get more of your to-dos done.
Notifications can be helpful, but they are most often distractions that pull your attention in several different directions. One of the easiest ways to get into Deep Work is to silence your notifications. This will help you get those big projects done with less distracting dings and pings.
Color Code Your Email
When you do go through your inbox, color coding can help you keep track of which emails need to be addressed most immediately, those that spark questions for the larger team and any other identifiers that are helpful to you. If you are a visual person, color-coding will help you sort out your inbox and quickly tackle the items that require attention.
With all of these tips, you are now prepared to conquer your day and be more productive!