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9 ways to be more productive at work

February 27, 2015, 7:00 PM UTC
Studio shot of hands note pad full of post it notes
Photograph by Getty Images/Fuse

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 Kathryn Wilcox, market president at iHeartMedia San Francisco.

In the spirit of keeping it simple: Don’t mistake being responsive with being productive. With email, or any other communication tool, it is important to ensure that there is continuous progress on your top priorities. To avoid wasting your time constantly checking emails, here are a few tricks:

Know your priorities. Set weekly goals and chunk them into daily benchmarks to help ensure you achieve them. If you have trouble remembering them, write them down. Use a sticky note and place it near your computer.

Create email-free time. Interruptions can kill productivity. Block time on your calendar and commit to it like you would any other appointment. If you work in a “now” environment, set an out-of-office notification and forward calls. Only you can create the space you need to focus.

And email-dedicated time. You have to respond to messages in a timely fashion — that’s reality. However, this doesn’t mean within several minutes of receiving an email. Set an appropriate amount of time, perhaps twice a day. Ask for timelines to help you decide which issues to dedicate your time to first.

Turn off email notifications. You run your day, not your email. If you’re constantly responding to emails as they arrive, you can’t focus on the priorities you set for yourself.

Scan and respond. Look for the people who are most important and address those first. Save the rest for during your dedicated email allotment.

Set a maximum. Set a limit on the number of emails in one chain (mine is three). If your maximum is achieved and the problem still isn’t resolved, change platforms for improved efficiency. Pick up the phone or set up a meeting.

Take disagreements off line. Email is not place to hash out an argument.

Respect others. Be clear about deliverables and deadlines in emails. Respect that other people have priorities that may differ from your own and allow the appropriate time for project completion.

Disruption happens. When a major project lands on your lap or an emergency comes up it’s okay to acknowledge it, but try to avoid the temptation to respond immediately. Check your priorities and change course only as you see fit.

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

Hate email? Here’s 5 ways to deal by Sheri Hickok, chief engineer of Next Generation Full Size Trucks at General Motors.

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.