I read a McKinsey & Company report recently that said 28% of our day is spent reading and answering email. Think about that for a second. Let’s say you’re an early riser and you start your day at 5am and we assume you finally close your eyes around 11pm. You’re pulling an 18-hour day. That would mean 5 hours out of your day are spent on email. 5 whole flipping hours!

Another study found that we’re sending as many as 86 work-related emails from work and another 25 from home — every day. What ARE we doing?

Given the amount of time and energy we’re giving to our inboxes … I have to ask: Are you an inbox-zero kinda person? Or, have you basically given up? Does your email icon on your phone show 12,738 messages unread?

Confession … I’m a inbox-zero guy. Ugh!

But, that doesn’t mean that I’ve successfully found a way to streamline or limit my time spent on email. That, my friends, is an ongoing battle.

Here are a few of the ways that I’m going to try to change my pattern:

Create an “Email Time Block”

One of the most popular suggestions is that you create time blocks in your day that are reserved for email — and you force yourself not to check it except for inside those time blocks. I even read an article that suggested you put up an away message outside of those blocks that says something to the effect of: “I”m trying to work more and email less. Please call me if this is an emergency.” And, this is a good thing. Part of the issue is no one is communicating personally anymore. I’ve gotten most of my breakthroughs by having an actual, physical conversation. Isn’t that amazing?

If you’re like me, it’s easy to check email all day long — not wanting to miss an opportunity or to not be readily available to clients, family, and friends. But, in order to be more productive and really offer your undivided attention to these people, you can’t be pulled in a million directions. I think blocking off “email time” can help with this. I know it’s helped me.

Turn Off Your Notifications During No-Email Blocks

In order for this strategy to work, you’d need to turn off your email notifications. A really great Gmail add-on is called Inbox Pause by Boomerang. You can add this to your Gmail and it will allow you to pause your inbox (and notifications) for a certain period of time. It also pauses them from coming into your phone.

It allows you to set an away message if you want. And, if there are certain people/emails that you want to be able to “come through” during the pause (maybe your family, for example, in case of an emergency), you can do that too.

My phone also allows me to block out time that emails are not coming through — using the “screen time” feature.

Read, Reply, Move On

I’ve often found myself reading an email and deciding to reply later. But, if you think about it, that means you’re actually spending more time on email — because you have to read it again when you’re ready to reply. To save time, a lot of experts say it’s best to reply in the moment versus holding off for later — simply because you’re spending less time re-reading the email.

I’m not a huge fan of the “auto-suggestion” features in Gmail that auto-populate responses for you. I think they sound too sterile and aren’t “human” enough. And, as you know, I think it’s all about the human connection … but, I guess that could be helpful in a “time-saving” regard. But, I’m not personally using it.

More Cool Technologies

I wouldn’t be doing this blog justice if I wasn’t including a few more tech-friendly ideas for mastering your email. Another one I came across is called Streak. It looks pretty impressive, allowing you to have your pipeline, contacts, tasks, and progress all in your inbox. If you’re going to spend so much time on email — it’s not a bad idea to have it super streamlined for your business. I like that you can also share emails and call notes with team members.

You might also like something called Sortd. It lets you easily sort your Gmail into cards and to-do lists for easy organization. Imagine moving an email prospect from “Hello” to “Negotiating” to “Closed”, etc. all inside your Gmail. It also has a tracking feature that lets you know when your emails are read/opened, which is great for anyone in sales.

And, if you’ve completely given up on your inbox and 12,839 emails are staring at you, consider Mailstorm, which lets you go through big batches of emails all at once (it works for Outlook, Gmail and others). The app essentially bundles related emails into different categories and lets you dig yourself back to inbox-zero.

Making Email Better

So, email is not going away. And neither is texting. But, what’s made me the most progress and success (and have the most fun) was picking up the phone and getting people used to the idea that I communicate in that way. I know we all want to save time and be efficient — but, creativity is much harder when crafting an email than vs. having a conversation.

The pendulum has swung so far to the email/texting realm that I think it’s time we start swinging it the other way!

Did you know Baraba Corcoran doesn’t even have work email on her phone? In fact, she has an away message requesting you forward your email to her assistant if it’s important. How’s THAT for time-savings?

How much time do you think you spend on email in a day? I’d love to hear 1) how much time you spend and 2) how you’ve chosen to tackle your inbox. Let me know on LinkedIn!