Sheri Hickok, chief engineer of Next Generation Full Size Trucks at General Motors
By Sheri Hickok
February 27, 2015

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you manage email overload? is written by Sheri Hickok, chief engineer of Next Generation Full Size Trucks at General Motors.

Emails can be the death of productivity or, on the other hand, a critical enabler. Here are some lessons I have learned over the years to not feel at the mercy of my inbox:

Don’t let your inbox become your to-do list
Try not to open your inbox in the morning until you have completed your most pressing matters first. Otherwise, it can very quickly dictate what you are focusing on, which is usually urgent but not necessarily the most important.

Choose a certain time to answer emails
I find that if I am multitasking in meetings (such as answering emails), I get much less out the meeting than I could. Instead, I schedule a few blocks of time throughout the day to focus on email, even just a few minutes at lunch or before heading home. Answering emails in one fell swoop is much more manageable and efficient.

Get comfortable with the delete button
I used to feel that I needed to know about everything going on. Now, I have learned that if someone else on my team is responsible for a topic, I should let that individual manage those details — this means deleting emails I’m cc’ed on. This also works to empower your team, which is a win-win in my book!

Categorize your inbox
Label emails. A few categories I use each day are: due in 24 hours, due in one week, for review, waiting for follow-up. These help me respond to the urgent items I can’t miss in a timely manner. It also helps me manage the information that I can’t delete yet, but want to keep in sight.

Get rid of the junk
Don’t get sucked into every ad email or sale offer (even if it is your favorite store). We each have the same 24 hours in a day – make sure to spend your time on the issues that will have an impact.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you manage email overload?

How to manage your inbox (before it manages you) by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.

Ivanka Trump: 5 tips for managing email overload by Ivanka Trump, executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization.

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