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5 Simple Proven Ways to Improve Your Email Habits

5 Simple Proven Ways to Improve Your Email Habits
Credit: Lisa S./Shutterstock

Do you feel like your emails are taking over your life? If you spend all of your time in and out of the office reading and responding to messages, you're probably right. But the good news is there are some quick and easy ways to gain control over your inbox that will leave you feeling much more productive and much less stressed.

Ready for an email overhaul? Follow these five proven tips.

You may think you're doing yourself a favor by subscribing to relevant email newsletters, but you might be better off finding other ways to keep yourself in the loop without clogging up your inbox. Receiving a lot of emails each day is already overwhelming, and if you're a subscription hoarder, you're only making things harder for yourself.

According to a study by Harris Interactive, employees can't keep up with more than 50 emails in a day, ABC News reported. The survey, which questioned about 2,000 American adults, found that only 6 percent of employees said they could bear more than 50 emails per day. The study also found that one in five employees feel like they're under pressure because of email overload.

By cutting out some or all of the subscriptions that you don't absolutely need, you could also cut out some of the stress you experience as a result of an always-full inbox.

It may seem obvious, but checking your emails every 5 minutes can make you feel stressed and can make you less productive. If you're constantly checking and responding to emails every time a new message notification pops up, you'll never get any high-priority work done. However, leaving people hanging in your inbox isn't good for business either. Instead, try scheduling specific blocks of time throughout the day to open and respond to emails.

A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior looked at workers who limited themselves to checking their email only three times a day. The study found that these workers were less tense, less stressed and more productive than those who left their notifications on and checked their emails constantly throughout the day, New York Magazine reported.

If you're worried about missing urgent messages from clients or important updates from your boss, try setting up filters in your inbox to alert you only when those significant emails come through. Save the rest of your messages for your allotted email breaks. 

When you're out of the office — be it when you get home after a long day, when it's the weekend or even when you're on vacation — make sure you've got your emails turned off. With most employees using smartphones tied to their work emails, it can feel impossible to escape from the responsibilities and stresses of the office, but studies show that staying this connected is actually bad for your health. [5 Simple Scientific Ways to Be Less Stressed at Work ]

According to a survey by Workplace Options, 59 percent of American workers use their mobile devices to do work after normal business hours, Fortune.com reported. Another survey, from Good Technology, found that 68 percent of people check their work email before 8 a.m., 50 percent check it while in bed, 57 percent do so on family outings, and 38 percent even check their email at the dinner table. However, this can cause more than just stress on your mental health; it can cause physical problems as well. Along with psychological issues, checking email outside of work hours can also lead to gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems, a study in the journal Chronobiology International found, as reported by Fortune.com.

It's OK to check in if you're expecting an important update, but it's better for you if you can avoid staying in office mode on your nonworking hours.

Sometimes the best email strategy is knowing when to not use email at all. If you're having a back and forth with your boss or a co-worker that doesn't require a face-to-face meeting but is taking up valuable time over email, take advantage of your company's instant messaging system. You can also use other chat options like Slack or Gchat. Instant messaging (IM) can take some of the wait time out of your conversation and keep you away from your already stressful inbox.

According to a report from The Radicati Group, the use of instant messaging by businesses is continuing to grow; the number of IM accounts worldwide totaled 3.2 billion in 2015. And it's often used in the same situations in which many people would normally rely on email.  And according to The Guardian, many business owners have found that switching to instant messaging has reduced stress and simplified daily internal communications. For example, Steven Drost, CEO of Stipso, said that he used to wake up to 100 emails every day, but after switching to IM, he estimated his inbox was about 60 percent less full, The Guardian reported.

Of course, instant messaging can also be a distraction. So make use of your chat client's options by setting your status to busy or unavailable when you're in meetings or working on a project that requires your undivided attention.

No one likes reading long, work-related emails, so don't waste your time sending wordy emails, either.

According to a study from MailTime, the longer an email is, the less likely recipients are to actually read it. The survey found that 19 percent of people won't read an email that's longer than one paragraph, 51 percent won't read past the second paragraph, 76 won't read an email longer than three paragraphs, and 84 percent won't read emails longer than four paragraphs. So, if you want to save yourself time and ensure that your message is actually effective, keep it short.

This includes email forwards, too; sending out huge, disorganized threads is overwhelming to your co-workers and employees, Forbes said. Instead, try picking out the important details and sending out only what's necessary (and to whom — don't be too generous with the reply-all button, either.) 

Brittney Helmrich
Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.