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Top 5 e-mail productivity tips for businesses

The typical information worker is under constant bombardment from digital information and many if not most are overwhelmed by it. E-mail is without doubt the main culprit.  A recent study by Webtutorials claims that information workers spend on average 2 hours a day looking for information and up to a whopping 40% of their time using e-mail. That’s not just sending and responding to e-mail, it’s time spent looking for information, searching, sifting, deleting, filing. 

The simplest definition I've seen for information worker is "Employees who produce and process information".  This obviously covers a huge range of occupations.  But the common denominator for Information workers is their dependence on a computer to work.

As a business owner, an IT consultant and someone with a high dependence on technology to do my job, productivity, particularly in the context of information working, is somewhat of an obsession for me.  In my business we are being squeezed by market forces to extract every ounce of productivity we can from our resources, and in our business like most others businesses this predominantly means 'human resources'

How much of that 40% could be channelled into more productive activities?  Have you ever thought that if your team stopped all these long email chains, not just internally, but with clients and partners, and had a good old fashioned chat things would get done quicker and better?  I know from my experience that a lot of business owners do recognize this problem; in fact I know many who get frustrated by their people’s propensity to over use e-mail for communication.

Think about how much productivity your business could gain by improving your working practices with e-mail and what that translates to in terms of business value?  The way people work is habitual, some people will have developed good e-mail habits and some people will have developed bad e-mail habits.  Just think what training and development in this area could yield for your business.  In my experience small business do very little IT user training and development but there is a great opportunity here for businesses to cost effectively increase productivity.

My top 5 e-mail productivity tips for businesses

E-mail rules

Why live just out of an inbox?  Create e-mail rules which route emails that form part of your daily workflow into their own folders so you can monitor and manage them independently.  This saves lots of e-mail management time and saves you having to constantly search through your inbox.  You start to organise and gain control over your e-mail.


Save regularly used folders as favourites.  This probably sounds incredibly obvious to some people, but it’s surprising how many users don't take advantage of this feature.  Marking regular folders as favourites saves lots of time scrolling around looking for folders. 


Not sure this qualifies as a tip but in my opinion it's the way forward.  Develop an intranet using SharePoint  (the free one will work) so that information currently distributed internally via e-mail distribution lists can be posted to an intranet where users will alerted to it by e-mail.  You still get the benefit of e-mail alerts but the information isn't lost into the e-mail abyss.  It remains available on your Intranet where it can easily be found by anyone using search capabilities. 

Custom views in Outlook

One of my favourite custom views is a filter which when activated only shows me e-mails in my inbox that I've been copied into.  Once in a while I activate this view, select all and click delete, and in the process clear out several hundred e-mails that I really don't need to read! Filters are powerful and easy to create.

Upgrade to Outlook 2010

Outlook 2010 has some enhancements that will increase productivity. 

Auto-organise – Group e-mails into threads by topic like a message board.  So instead of having 100 e-mails in your inbox covering 10 topics you just see 10 e-mail threads. 

Mailbox clean-up – Mailbox clean-up deletes redundant emails.  You've exchanged a bunch of e-mails with a colleague on a topic.  After 10 e-mails, you reach a decision so now you have 9 useless e-mails and one important e-mail.  Run clean-up the 9 useless ones go away! 

Rob Leverton

Rob has worked as an IT technician and project manager with Connexion for 14 years before moving into his current role as head of the technical services team.

Although Rob comes from a technical background he’s very much a people person and he is exceptionally good at building excellent working relationships with our customers and his technical team to deliver service excellence to our clients.

Rob Leverton

James Stratton

James is passionate about technology and how it can transform business.  Having worked with hundreds of businesses in many different sectors over the last 25 years he has a huge amount of business IT knowledge that he enjoys imparting to Connexions customers.

James is responsible for Connexions strategic development and also still enjoys a role in consulting and sales and marketing