Lead Your Organization, Don’t Battle Your Inbox

leadership transition Dec 14, 2021

-By Sophie Pinkoski

Throughout the pandemic, we have especially adapted to communicate with one another almost exclusively in a digital capacity. While shifting from in-person to virtual meetings has been a huge innovation in the workplace, another aspect of our regular online habits is less productive: emails.  

The lure of responding to emails may feel like an easy productivity win in your day, but it can also be a black hole that takes away crucial time and energy from more important leadership tasks.

Harvard Business Review study shows that CEOs spend 25 to 30% of their work day on electronic communication. Yet email communications are far less reliable and more time consuming than face to face interactions, where you can gather all the information you need from someone at once. It makes sense, then, that the most productive conversations happen not through email, but in-person, even if that meeting has to be virtual.  

In order to cut down on your email time and prioritize more important tasks, it takes discipline to set boundaries and stick to them.

Here are some ways to keep your inbox productive: 

Limit the amount of times you check your email per day – It’s recommended that you shouldn’t be checking your work emails any more than twice a day.

Depending on the schedule that works best for you, set aside time to respond to emails such as once in the morning, and again in the early evening.

However, first thing in the morning should remain sacred, reserved for your highest priorities – personal or professional. Getting stuck into emails upon waking up draws focus and motivation away from your most important tasks, thus unbalancing energy from your day. Wait at least an hour after you get out of bed before delving into your inbox.  

Prioritize your emails – As the CEO of an organization,  your attention is requested from many people, which means your email inbox can often get unwieldy and difficult to keep contained.

But not every email demands a response.

When prioritizing emails, it’s helpful to use the 20/80 rule: 20% of the emails you receive will be advantageous to advancing your leadership contribution and your organization. The other 80% is everything else. Some of these emails won’t require a response at all, and others can easily be delegated to members of your team. 

Set boundaries with your team – Make sure your team is aware of when you intend to respond to email throughout your day.

Be firm about not responding to their emails outside of working hours. You set the precedent; if they see that you reserve your responses exclusively for the work week, they will do the same.

Building this kind of email etiquette into your team culture is crucial for everyone to maintain a healthy work-life balance. By keeping your team in the loop regarding your email intentions, this is also an opportunity to identify who amongst your team can take on specific delegated responses to free up your email load. 

Keep templates for your most common responses – It’s handy to keep a sort of FAQ on hand if you find yourself responding to similar emails on a regular basis. Things like rejections, declining offers, or sending thank you notes and follow ups can be delegated to your team, who can utilize templates to write email drafts. All you’d have to do is approve and press send. 

Your daily schedule is far too busy to spend it all focused on responding to emails. Let other priorities take precedence and know when to hand off responses to someone else. After all, your job is to lead your organization, not battle your emails. 


Further Reading: 

How CEOs Manage Time, Harvard Business Review 

70% of Time Could Be Used Better - How the Best CEOs Get the Most Out of EverythingFirst Round Review 

How the Most Productive CEOs Keep Email in Check, Fast Company 

Here are 5 Tips to Mindfully Managing Your Emails, Forbes 

11 Simple Tips to Effective Email Management, Lifehack 



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