What happened to the good old days, when we actually got up and talked to each other? Used the telephone? Wrote letters to people with pens in our hands? Recently, I polled the team at Koi-Fly Creative on our email use. We spend 5 hours every day reading and answering emails – more than half of the work week. We all know that email is an important communication tool but is it taking over our lives?

According to the Harvard Business Review, the average user receives approximately 11,680 emails per year. Most of those emails are automatically filtered into spam folders. But the rest? We assume it’s important and we spend hours responding so we feel engaged and ahead of the game. As communication savvy humans, we tackle the many emails we receive on a day to day basis as deftly as possible but we wonder if there are other, less time-consuming ways to connect. While we ponder new platforms for communication there are some proven approaches to making email our friend.

Stay On Top of the Wave.

Different types of ‘email-like’ communications have evolved over the years. There are hundreds of new options out there for staying connected, in real time, all the time. Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp are some of the most popular messaging tools. Slack, an instant messaging app, was once deemed as the replacement for email. Slack works well for small businesses – especially for internal messaging, but it becomes unsustainable when companies scale and employees potentially have tens of thousands of alerts per day. When compared to these options, email is still the most user-friendly form of communication. Even Facebook Messenger’s user base pales in comparison to the those who have adapted email into their everyday lives. Just about everyone, from school-aged kids to senior citizens, has email addresses. Plus, you need an email address to set up Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, and all the other apps in the first place.

Even though these other communication apps aren’t as universal or scalable as email, incorporating them in your daily correspondence will minimize the number of emails flooding your inbox.

Use Email to Prospect + Sell

Email provides an easy outlet for communicating with customers who have let you know they want to hear from you. Once a customer opts in, they’re yours, until they opt out. So don’t give them a reason to leave. Be smart about your CRM by being aware of your audience’s overflowing inboxes. Be calculated in how and when you message them. Make email correspondence matter to the audience you are sending it to.

Stay focused, on brand and purposeful. Concentrate on offers, tips, utility, and advice. Think about ways to include short, digestible video. But feel free to drive your audience back to your website. Try to stay away from directly advertising your business by providing complimentary information or services that help businesses.

Archive Wisely. Back Up Daily.

Email is the most trusted, reliable source for record keeping in the workplace. It’s the first thing you get on day one when you start a job. Ultimately, it becomes your number one storage tool, where you can find your daily to-do list, business transactions, and files. It’s the best form of record keeping. Think about ways to archive files daily and manage smart folders, so you can find important stuff easily and your inbox doesn’t get crazy full.

Set Expectations. Make Rules.

We all love, and crave, work-life balance. Dealing with after-hours emails can often create anxiety that’s damaging not only to an employee, but to their family, too. When you feel pressure to check email after hours, your quality of work can suffer because it minimizes your time to rest and recharge. Without mental recovery time, you can become less creative, focused, and thoughtful. So think twice about being tied to email throughout the day and night, on the weekends, and during vacations.

As a leader, make your expectations for employee’s emails clear from the start. Lead wisely so they follow, and so there’s no fear about disappointment. Set an example for everyone by clarifying big-picture expectations and set small-picture expectations about which forms of communication are appropriate in which situations.

Embracing email in a healthy way in our day to day lives is critical and valuable. Email was never intended to promote non stop around the clock communication, and although we treat it that way, it’s not a great idea.  Considering all of the benefits and drawbacks of email is necessary for finding the right balance at work and at home and running your business smoothly.

Does email take over your life? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Comment below or email me (during work hours). 😉