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Here's what Google's Productivity expert Laura Mae recommends to master your email

Here's what Google's Productivity expert Laura Mae recommends to master your email

Laura Mae Martin is Google’s productivity advisor. She coaches Google employees (from new hires to executives) on how to be productive email users. This has helped them get more done in less time, avoid email burnout, and increase effective team communication.

Here are her top 10 email management tips:

1. Block email notifications

Constant email notifications are the death of productivity. It dilutes our focused attention and robs us of deep work. Plus, it sets a reactive chain: Say, you’re working. In the middle of it, you get a notification. You check it. You then respond to the email. This triggers back and forth conversations. The end result is you don’t get your things done.

Laura recommends “checking your email proactively” instead of “bothering your brain with notifications” to avoid this. Follow this advice using Mailman. It pauses emails when you’re doing your work. No notifications. No distractions. 100% productivity. You can fix the time when you’d like to receive emails: set hourly intervals or choose specific times.

Laura even suggests “setting up notifications” for emails so that you don’t miss important emails. Use Mailman to add important senders (such as your boss), domains, or keywords to the VIP list. Mailman lets you see these emails as soon as it is sent.

2. Reply within 24 hours

Reply within 24 hours
Reply within 24 hours

Make it a habit to respond within 24 hours. Start with checking your emails every 4-5 (working) hours to do so (Or choose the duration to suit your working needs). Update your co-worker on their requests (if they have any). This reduces frequent follow-ups and confirms to the sender that you have seen the email and are onto it.

This is helpful in remote work. It will bridge the communication gap and ensure everyone’s aligned with the end goal.

3. Close your email tab

It’s tempting to check your emails often, especially if you keep the email tap open 24/7. An average person checks their email 15 times per day, or every 37 minutes. That’s a lot of time wasted.

Laura suggests “closing your email tab when you’re doing deep work” to fight this.

Check your emails only after 4-5 working hours. Use Mailman to block your emails when you’re working.

Stat alert: The University of British Columbia found that limiting the frequency of checking emails to 3 times per day reduces stress levels. Low-stress levels result in higher well-being. So avoid checking your emails often.

Start with closing your tab.

4. Avoid clicking on emails more than twice

Click on the email, read it, and tag/label your future action (example: “to-do after 3 hours”). Open the email a second time only when you’ve to respond to it.

Learn how to tag/label your emails

Pro Tip: Ask your colleagues to mention “action required now” in the subject line to prioritize important emails.

5. Sorting, reading, and answering emails should be separate activities

People think they get more switching between sorting and reading emails. But, in reality, switching between these activities drains your energy.

So don’t don the multitasking hat. Sorting, reading, and answering emails are three different activities. Do them one at a time.

Sorting, reading, and answering emails should be separate activities
Sorting, reading, and answering emails should be separate activities

If you’re sorting your emails, focus 100% on doing so. “Then when you’re done, read everything you need to read.”

6. Store emails that require clear action; archive or delete the rest

Me: $0

What about you?

An average Gmail account holds 17,000 messages. Some even have 100,000+ (My brain spins just at the thought of it).

Getting my email to 0 unread messages has been key to my email productivity. It helps me remain sane and avoid missing important emails. Plus, a cluttered inbox gives you a “false sense of having too much to do.” It adds to your mental load.

So, delete, archive, or snooze your emails that “don’t require an immediate action.”

(Click on each link to learn how to delete, archive, or snooze your emails)

7. Choose which emails to spend your energy on

Not every email you receive is worthy of your attention to read it. So, why add to your mental load? Gmail lets you create filters so that “certain emails skip your inbox and won’t appear as new emails.”

Example: If you’re guilty of subscribing to too many newsletters (I’m), “set up a filter with has the words: unsubscribe.” Every email with the word unsubscribe will skip your inbox and won’t distract you henceforth. You can search for those emails if you want to.

8. Sort out read emails from unread ones

Mixing read and unread emails is a recipe for disaster. It will just add confusion. So keep your read emails in a different section from the new ones.

Here’s how:

“Create multiple inbox pane. Or move emails to a different label that denotes a specific action (such as ‘To Do’ or ‘Follow up’).

9. Beware of the shiny object syndrome

Shiny object syndrome is a concept when people focus on the new/the latest thing. It diverts attention from what needs to be done.

In our context, it’s the emails that came just in. It often doesn’t require your immediate attention, but you’re persuaded to open and respond to them. Move these emails to snoozed emails list (a feature that allows you to postpone reading new emails until your designated time), or starred emails (a feature that allows you to mark certain emails as important so that you can look at them later).

This will help you avoid distractions and focus on your current task.

10. Use the search superpower

Google lets you search for anything and get a result within seconds. You can do the same in Gmail, too. Type necessary keywords to dig for relevant emails. “You can search by date, sender, subject, (and more), and you can get even more specific with queries like “has:attachment” or “older_than: 6m” (m=months).

Here are the different search operations you can use.

Master your email to 10X your productivity

Google employees and executives use these 10 email tips for effective time management, energy management, and getting more done in less time. If you, too, want to enjoy these benefits and become an email power user, get started with these recommendations.