Workers are overwhelmed by digital overload and the 24/7 hyper-connected working environment.
We are glued to our phones, laptops, and computers, answering emails, firing off messages, and checking status updates around the clock.
But the overload doesn’t stop there. When we’re not replying to messages, we’re in back-to-back meetings, which are often ineffective or simply a waste of time.
You might be surprised to learn that the average office worker:
- receives 121 emails and sends about 40 each day,
- spends 25 percent of the week in unnecessary meetings or dealing with distractions, and
- checks their mobile devices up to 150 times every day.
But despite being always “online,” our productivity, engagement, and morale are declining.
Because we’re spending our time answering emails, attending back-to-back meetings, or dealing with distractions.
And despite all of this busy work, there’s very little time to actually think, plan, or strategize.
It’s clear that the way we’re working isn’t working anymore. It’s reducing productivity, demotivating employees, and costing businesses.
Let’s dig into the core causes of meetings and emails in the workplace and some easy solutions.
Issue One: Cluttered Inboxes and Irrelevant Emails
One of the major causes of email overload is the dreaded forwarded chain. We’ve all done it. You need to ask a question, but in an attempt to keep the whole team in the picture, you forward the email to everyone on the team.
And we’ve all been on the receiving end. You’ve been copied in on an email, but it’s really not addressed to you. You quickly open up, scan its contents, and delete it.
The Solution: Email Notes and Internal Chats
Instead of cc’ing the whole team, email notes are a simple way to add internal notes to a client’s email. You can either add a note for future reference or @mention a team member asking for help.
While email notes are excellent for keeping a clear history of internal and external communications, keeping the whole team in the loop, they also drastically reduce the number of emails and meetings required.
Issue Two: Endless Project Management Meetings
Project status update meetings are one of the more common types of meetings. Generally organized by the project manager and involving the whole team, these meetings are designed to report on progress.
Of course, it’s imperative to keep on top of the team’s statuses, as well as any resolving current or potential roadblocks. However, often it’s only the team leader that benefits from these kinds of meetings and the other participants lose valuable time.
The Solution: Kanban Boards and Meeting Scheduler
Instead, you can use kanban boards to eliminate the need for status update meetings by enabling all members of a team or project to see the status of each task.
For instance, you can transform your inbox into a Kanban-style project management board inside Gmail. With just one click you can turn emails into task cards, assign team members to tasks, and set deadlines for completion.
Tasks on your Kanban boards are linked to the date and time of your computer, so you can easily set deadlines for completion. Plus, all of the tasks in your Kanban board can be synced with your usual Google calendar.
As well as being an awesome way to keep on top of a fast-moving project, Kanban boards reduce the need for emails and meetings. By creating and sharing a board with your team, everyone can clearly see their jobs and responsibilities.
Last but not least, use smart meeting invites to schedule more productive meetings. Use a meeting calendar app to embed your availability inside your emails and avoid back and forth, with pre-meeting questions so everyone can come prepared.
Issue Three: Distractions and Attention Switch
Gmail and Slack are one of the most common combinations used in modern offices for external and internal messages. You’ve likely got a favorite, but in reality, you need both to collaborate and communicate successfully.
The use of two or more apps has its inherent flaws. You’re switching between tabs, apps, and tools constantly; your attention is divided, and you might struggle to remember where a vital document or message was sent to.
The Solution: Sync Slack and Gmail for Seamless Communication
We understand the need for both Slack and Gmail. They are both an integral part of your workflow.
So, instead of choosing between a single communication app, consider using a tool that integrates Gmail with Slack. Now everyone in your team can use their favorite tool for communication and your messages are automatically updated in both.
Reply to emails or leave notes in your Slack channel; either way, an integration between Slack and Gmail automatically updates your communication history, so you can still have one clear track record of all communication.
Issue Four: Lack of Transparency and Track Record
Nowadays teams work together across departments and locations. But email, as a one-on-one tool for communication, hasn’t evolved at the same pace.
Individual email inboxes, separate email chains to specific team members, and even the raft of apps and tools for communication mean that communication, documents, and information can be held in multiple different locations.
Valuable time is wasted hunting down vital pieces of information, meetings are scheduled to get everyone on the same page, and emails are sent to request documents.
The Solution: Shared Inboxes and Labels
Shared inboxes and labels allow you to collaborate with your team and collectively deal with external communications.
With shared inboxes, you can share a whole inbox (e.g. Sales or Customer Support), while shared labels allow you to share just Gmail labels with specific team members.
This allows your team to work together on shared conversations, assigning tasks, replying to emails, etc., just like complex help desk software.
Whoever you’re sharing emails with, you can refer to the history of all internal and external communication, thus avoiding sending annoying forwarding chains to the whole team, cluttering inboxes and wasting your time.
The Final Word
Solving email and meeting overload comes down to organizing your workflows and communicating openly with your team members.
To recap, here are four easy-to-implement techniques to decrease the number of emails you receive and the number of meetings you attend:
- Enable transparent communication with meeting notes and internal chat.
- Use project management tools to assign tasks and keep up to date with your teams progress.
- Create a central hub of information by integrating your core communication channels like Gmail and Slack.
- Share inboxes and email threads with relevant team members so everyone can easily view, manage, and respond to external communication.
Implement these techniques, to free up your valuable time and redirect attention to your priorities.