I’m all for a good hack. Suggestions for getting eight solid hours of sleep each night? Bring it. To-do list tips that’ll lead to a more productive workday? Yes, please. Microsoft Word tricks that I won’t know how I ever lived without? Absolutely. Email hacks that’ll help me get control of my inbox once and for all? No, thanks—I’m good.
You see, my productivity may wane for any number of reasons throughout the workday, but reading and responding to emails is not one of them.
I know it’ll cause many jaws to drop for me to openly admit that I check my email all day, every day, but I do. Even though I’ve heard multitasking slows me down, and even though most productivity experts suggest blocking off time each day to deal with it, I prefer to keep my email tab open, front and center, incoming messages pouring in throughout the day. I’d rather not wait until a certain designated hour to devote solely to opening and responding. While it may not be true for everyone, it works for me to stay on top of it in this manner.
Now, are my email habits perfect and pristine? Flawless? Probably not. But the one true thing? I’m not ever stressed by the state of my inbox.
So, how do I manage to stay on top of incoming emails without any hacks and without going crazy? Well, I’m not a superhero, but I do have a couple of routine practices.
For example, the “mark as unread” option is like my BFF for messages I’m not prepared to answer right away. If it’s not pressing, if I’m prioritizing other things, or it requires a well-thought out response, I opt to save it at the top of my inbox so I know to return to it at a later point (no more than 24 hours though typically).
I’m also a fan of Boomerang, a program that allows me to send my responses at a chosen time in the future, because sometimes, depending on who I’m getting back to, I maybe don’t wish to seem too eager or like literally the only thing on my plate is answering his or her email.
But for the most part, that’s it. I’m not writing this to brag, but instead to remind you that as awesome as productivity hacks are, you don’t need to get excited about each new one that surfaces. If you did that, you’d probably never get anything important done.
If something’s working in your life, don’t assume you need the latest, greatest “fix” simply because you read a cool article or your co-worker praises it. One person’s favorite time-management app may confuse the crap out of you and actually make your days feel longer, while another’s Excel tricks may be life-changing.
You’ve got to know yourself—then you can choose your hacks accordingly. Because that’s the real secret to productivity, understanding what you’re handling well and what you could improve upon to optimize your time.