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What Happens When Executives Email Less (Hint: It's a Good Thing)

Limiting email output at the executive level has a trickle down-effect, according to new research.

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When was the last time you had an empty inbox? Can’t remember? Sounds about right. The endless process of checking, composing and forwarding emails can eat away at an entire day’s work. 

Good news: A team of researchers recently used an in-depth case study to find a way to drastically reduce an organization’s inefficient email traffic-- and it starts at the top.

The team reportedly collaborated with top executives at a London-based company called International Power to limit the number of emails the executives sent daily-- emails that were typically so vague and inefficient that they caused ambiguity and cyber chaos among their staff. 

After the seven executives completed training on how to reduce the number of emails they sent, their email output fell by 54 percent in three months. Additionally, even though the other employees--73 in total--did not complete the same training as the executive team, their email output dropped by a whopping 64 percent.

And here's the kicker: According to the study, this decrease converts to a 7 percent increase in productivity and frees up 10,400 man-hours yearly. 

So how do you stop spamming your employees? In this study, the research team worked with executives to take a more deliberate approach to their email. But here are three simple ways you can do the same: 

Have conversations (remember those?).

For important issues that warrant face-to-face time--make the time. Email leads to multi-tasking and a lack of focus. For the big stuff, have conversations with your employees to limit confusion and follow up emails. Inc. contributor Kevin Daum shares the importance of conversations:

Multitasking may be fine for some, but people rarely want your divided attention. If too many things are going on, you're likely to miss important details that might make the difference between success and failure. Whether you are having a conversation in person or on the phone, give the other person focused time. You'll make them feel important and worthy. Plus your conversations will actually be shorter. 

Read emails in their entirety.

Daum also stresses the importance of taking time with the emails you do read and how to respond effectively. He says: 

I find people who only read the first line of their email incredibly frustrating. This forces their colleagues to send additional emails just to get issues addressed. Nobody saves any time this way. It just creates angst and extra work. Slow down, read the whole email, and respond to all items. When sending emails, keep them short and to the point or you deserve to be ignored. Use numbered lists and bullet points to make your ideas clear and simple to address. 

Think before you send.

Before sending emails, think about whether it is necessary. Be sure to only send emails that contain actual information. "'Thanks,' and 'Oh, OK' do not advance the conversation in any way. Feel free to put 'No Reply Necessary' at the top of the e-mail when you don't anticipate a response,” Peggy Duncantold Inc. Author of Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007, Duncan also stresses to only send emails or copy people on emails on a need to know basis. 

IMAGE: boellstiftung/Flickr
Last updated: Sep 5, 2013

ABIGAIL TRACY is a staff reporter for Inc. magazine. Previously, she worked for Seattle Metropolitan magazine and Chicago magazine.
@abigailtracy




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