7 steps to reduce email anxiety

It has the power to change your day with a single notification – for better or worse.

It might be an acceptance email from University or a client barking at you in the subject line ‘Make the poster pop more!’ For many of us, emails are a catalyst for anxiety and stress. Email debt builds and productivity dwindles. Yet emails are the main source of communication in the workplace. So how can you fix your email problem?

Follow these 7 steps to reduce email anxiety, streamline work processes and reduce Monday morning rage. Soon you’ll be well on your way to becoming an email ninja.

1. Clean your inbox! And keep it clean.

Many emails don’t even belong in your inbox. The first step to cleaning your inbox is to pick a week in the life of your inbox and unsubscribe to those gastly newsletters you don’t read. After you are spam free, set up a priority and filter system. 

Most email programs allow you to set up email priority so you can flag which are important. 

Another option is to prioritise your emails with a filter system that segments by email length. Colour code your email inbox by the time you think it will take to respond, and prioritise your responses based on the time you have. 

2. Make a list of emails that shouldn’t be emails and implement it into your communication strategy.

Take the time to create a framework around what should be an email and what can be handled offline. Then communicate this to your internal staff. 

This framework should look at when ‘the personal’ needs to be in person. When we speak with someone in person, our body language and expressions are just as important as the words we say. This doesn’t happen when we communicate via email because they lack nuance. The absence of emotional tone in text is one of the reasons why emojis and gifs are so popular. They help communicate emotion through a two-dimensional medium. If it really needs that emoji, it probably shouldn’t be said in an email.

3. Arrange a clear communication process outside of the box.

Exploring other methods of digital communication will help reduce your email anxiety. Using a project management tool like Hassl or a communication app like Skype reduces the number of internal emails to staff and external emails with clients. Start with tackling internal communications and get your team excited about having a lighter inbox.  

4. Allocate your tasks and amount of time you can spend replying to emails.

Start every week with goals and a list of tasks you need to tick off to achieve them. Think strategically about what is important to achieve in the time you have and then set yourself clear tasks.

While replying to emails in a timely manner is important, is this one of the important tasks on your list that gets you closer to your goals? If not, consider giving yourself a time limit for how much of your day, or week, you are willing to spend replying to emails instead of achieving those goals. 

5. Make a list of FSEs (like FAQs, but frequently sent emails) and create templates.

Have you noticed Gmail trying to autocomplete your emails for you? While this is sometimes invasive, there are common, useful responses that you’ll notice appear frequently.

Use this technique to create a set of common replies that you can copy and paste. Maybe it’s a standard issue your clients need help with or someone asking for more information about your business. You can save time and increase efficiency by having a collection of well thought-out templates at hand.

6. Pick up the phone.

Even though deep down we would all love to reply “TLDR, Call me” to that 1,000 word email, you may feel obliged to write lengthy emails in response to lengthy emails. We believe this shows appreciation for the time spent on the initial correspondence. 

So do you really need to respond with a text-heavy email?  Some long responses and conversations will take hours over email and only a few minutes over the phone.

Just say no to email and pick up the phone.

Finally, here are some things you shouldn’t do when you receive an email: 

  • Delete emails as soon as they arrive without reading them.  
  • Use an ‘out of office’ auto reply when in fact, you are in the office. 
  • Forward your emails to someone else in your office to deal with and write ‘what do they mean?’ after the subject line. 
  • Yell at your computer or throw it out the window.
  • Play CubeField 

Lauren Crystal

Managing Director | Hassl

Lauren Crystal is the Managing Director of award-winning agency Your Creative and co-founder of the project collaboration tool Hassl, a web and mobile app that lets you manage your projects, files and communications from one platform. Hassl, chosen as Forbes Under 30 Summit’s ‘Ideas of the Year’ as well as 2019 Google startup participant, offers a simple way to manage teams remotely.

Lauren is a prominent speaker on creative growth strategies and team productivity, most notably speaking at Pausefest Summit, Property Council and TEDx Melbourne.