Leveraging email and time analytics to maximize efficiency

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A steady barrage of emails can quickly turn a manageable to-do list into a workday nightmare. Those dozens (or hundreds) of messages disrupt your focus, intensify stress levels and generally throw a wrench in your ideal workflow. If you’re not careful—and sometimes even if you are—email can become a second full-time job.

It goes without saying that this kind of chaos isn’t sustainable. Thankfully, there are personal analytics tools available that can provide you with insights about your day-to-day schedule and email habits. You can use these insights to strategize, re-organize and set limits that will save you significant time.

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Understand your inbox

The average knowledge worker spends 28 percent of their day on email—what about you? How much time is spent reading versus writing? And what about your read rates and response times? Are you communicating effectively with your peers and coworkers?

That’s a long list of questions—but email analytics can provide you with answers that help. Let’s say you to take a deeper dive into your interactions with a particular client or customer. You discover the long hours you spend thoughtfully composing regular updates are going to waste, as your contact isn’t even opening your emails. The takeaway? It’s probably better to limit yourself to vital points—and to communicate them through a different channel.

Or maybe you learn that emails sent after 3 p.m. have a high average response time. This knowledge lets you establish precise email windows to maximize effectiveness. The less time you have to spend following up on your ignored messages, the better.

Take control of your schedule

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Sustained blocks of time are rare these days. Emails, meetings and phone calls, while necessary, often serve as annoying interruptions. And when you’re feeling more scatterbrained than focused, it can be very difficult to get real work done. The answer? Let time analytics help you take stock of hidden inefficiencies.

Time analytics allows you to quickly see how often you experience uninterrupted periods of work time, how much you’re working outside of normal business hours, how many meetings you attend per week—the list goes on. Once you see the full picture, you’ll be able to make decisions about your work habits on a larger scale.

Finding that your average block of free time is only half an hour long? Reserve two hours on your calendar each day devoted to heads-down work. Make it clear to your co-workers that it’s important for you to stay at your desk during those two hours. If you receive a request for a meeting during your reserved time, see if it’s possible to reschedule. And if you believe your presence isn’t truly necessary, don’t be afraid to politely decline.

You can apply this same plan with regards to answering your email. Each day, choose two short blocks, maybe 30 minutes each, to respond to your accumulated messages. Again, add these blocks to your calendar so co-workers know that you’re busy.

Reclaim your workday

To fully optimize your workday, take advantage of other personal analytics tools. Network insights, for instance, allow you to take the pulse of your contacts. Who are you connecting with most frequently? And with whom do you risk losing touch? Access to this information could help you maintain relationships and keep lower priority projects from slipping through the cracks.

Similarly, a meeting quality feature can provide insights that help you understand why certain meetings aren’t as effective as they could be. Too much multitasking? Too much time to fill? Not enough time? Maybe you’ll discover that weekly check-in meeting isn’t even necessary.

The long and short of it

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In today’s office, email is a constant presence, and that’s not going to change. What can change is how you manage it—and how you manage your day. Use personal analytics to reorganize your time and work more efficiently. Small changes can make an enormous impact.

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