How email can actually enhance your productivity

Aytekin Tank
Aug 27, 2018 · 6 min read
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Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

Confession: I love email.

It’s not exactly a popular opinion these days.

As Don Norman said in a 2015 Fast Company story, “email is the office memo turned cancerous, extended to home and everyday life.”

Google “I hate email” and you get everything from cartoons to blog posts to active Reddit threads.

More drastically, some companies have even banned internal email, calling it a “pollution” that saps productivity and kills personal time.

I respectfully disagree.

Email certainly isn’t perfect, but if you create reliable systems and take control of your inbox, it can actually enhance your productivity.

Before we get into the how, let’s talk about the why of email.

The purpose of email

1. Asynchronous communication

2. Remembering tasks and responsibilities

3. Monitoring systems and numbers

Going for zero

Cleaning out your inbox by the end of each workday not only promotes a sense of calm, it clears your mind to focus on more important things.

You have more mental space to write, think, strategize, and tackle meaningful projects.

When you feel like a hamster on a task wheel, email can seem like a great thing to ignore.

But, here’s why inbox zero matters — and why it works so well for me.

1. I don’t hold up our teams

2. It builds trust

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3. I don’t forget important details

How to up your email game

Managing your inbox can seem like a mundane task; a nagging burden of digital life. But even if the professional benefits aren’t compelling, weak email boundaries can actually compromise your health.

According to Gloria Mark, a researcher at the University of California at Irving, there’s a clear link between email and stress.

Mark also found that the average worker checks their email 74 times in an eight-hour workday. That’s about nine times per hour — which means that you could have heart rate spikes spike and cortisol surges every 6 minutes.

I feel stressed just reading those numbers. So, let’s get tactical.

Here are my tips for writing and managing email more effectively:

Writing email

1. Use clear, searchable subject lines

2. Formatting is your friend

3. Show, don’t tell

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Take screenshots and annotate them to make it clear.

4. Clarify the recipient

5. Use @ tags

6. Call out the action item

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Processing email

1. Read and respond in batches

Even if you do nothing else, applying this technique should immediately boost your productivity, lower your stress, and help you stay focused.

And whether you’re an early riser or you’re committed to the late shift, few of us are at our best after a long stretch of work. Get to know your own “prime time” and manage email outside of those precious, creative hours.

2. Move backwards

3. Take the shortcuts

4. Talk to yourself

I manage my workflow with a mix of analog (written notes) and digital tools (email, spreadsheets), so it’s the right process for me. Give this note-and-email system a try if you think it would work for you.

I hope these tips help you to love — or at least tolerate — email again.

It’s so important to make peace with your inbox. Even Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield told Fast Company that email isn’t going away anytime soon.

“Maybe by 2080,” he said. “It’s got decades left at least.”

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Aytekin Tank

Written by

Founder at || (contact:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +669K people. Follow to join our community.

Aytekin Tank

Written by

Founder at || (contact:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +669K people. Follow to join our community.

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