Managing Your Emails as a Leader of Others

Most of us regard email as an important part of life—not just at work but outside of work as well.  It has literally become part of our culture.  Here are a few questions for you to reflect on:

  • Do you check your inbox the minute you wake up in the morning…often before doing anything else?
  • How many times during the day do you go to your inbox to check messages? Too many times to count?
  • And what is often the last thing you do before turning off the light to go to sleep? Yep, check that inbox.

But seriously, is there really anything wrong with that?  Doesn’t that help us be more productive – by being connected constantly?  I remember when email first came into existence.  It was an incredibly valuable tool that dramatically increased my productivity.  It still has the potential to do that, but its misuse can have the opposite effect.  Think about it, the sheer volume of emails that the average knowledge worker receives each day is staggering.  One study showed that by the end of 2019 the number of business emails sent and received “is expected to average 126 messages per user per day.” (Email Statistics Report, 2015-2019; The Radicati Group, Inc.).

Being in a leadership position will increase that number significantly.  Leaders literally receive hundreds of emails per day and when you have that many messages to manage it feels like it has become your fulltime job!  Let’s face it, your legacy will be in direct proportion to the time you spend on strategic activities that “move the needle” in your organization, not the number of emails you’re able to respond to in a day.  However, it’s difficult to get involved in strategic activities if you’re swimming in emails.

Here are a few recommendations to improve productivity and give us time to work on things that matter most:

  • First, where possible, only go to your inbox at certain preplanned times during the day. When you get there, try to eliminate other distractions so you can focus on your inbox.
  • Second, try to handle each message just once. Act on each message and move it from your inbox.  Do one of the following:
    • Delete the message
    • Archive the message
    • Reply to it (if you can respond in 1 minute or less)
    • Or, schedule a time to deal with it if it requires more thought
  • Third, create a folder where all messages that you are CC’d on get funneled into. The majority of these are non-urgent and could be reviewed at a time where you can focus on just that folder.
  • Fourth, establish email etiquette on your team. Eliminate unnecessary “reply all” responses (e.g. “Thanks”) that waste your time and the time of others.

For additional information on how we help deal with this issue and other key leadership transition issues, please email us at .