Email is more than just a communication method — it’s a productivity hack endorsed by a Hollywood superstar. Actor and philanthropist Ashton Kutcher recently said that email is “everyone else’s to-do list for you” — a schedule of tasks from friends and family that you need to complete.
Talking to the Thrive Global podcast, Ashton revealed his simple strategy for more productive email communication. He doesn’t spend the first hour of his working day browsing his inbox. No, he writes out what he wants to accomplish over the next few days instead.
Less time wasting and more productivity. “All I was doing was other people’s work all day long,” Ashton says. “I never actually got to the things that I wanted to accomplish.”
It sounded great on the Thrive Global podcast, but does Ashton’s email timesaver actually work? And does it lead to more effective communication? Read on to find out.
More Focus at Work
Ashton’s email tip will certainly boost your mental focus at work. Taking an hour in the morning to write out your goals for the day is a great idea — and it’s one that experts agree on. “Each morning, take a pen and a piece of paper and write down your 10 top goals,” says motivation and time management expert, Daniel M. Wood. “Don’t look at the day before, just think about what you want to do most and write them down. Remember to write them in the positive present tense, and remember to set a deadline for each goal. Do this for all 10 goals.”
Research shows that people don’t set goals properly. Moreover, nine out of 10 people don’t write down their goals at all. Be part of the elusive 10 percent — scribble down your objectives every morning to reinforce your commitment to them, and restore focus in your life.
The United States is a nation of procrastinators, according to research. Twenty-six percent of the population admitted to being “chronic procrastinators” in 2007 — up from just five percent in 1978. People often cite email as a major distraction, so could Ashton’s trick boost productivity in the workplace?
Reducing the number of times you check your email throughout the day and optimizing time management could prevent procrastination. Over 60 percent of individuals in a recent survey said they lost their chain of thought because they read and replied to an email, while more than 50 percent of people who check emails and social media when trying to work indicated a lack of impulse control.
“Email is a monster,” says world-renowned marketing expert Neil Patel. “Each of us has our ways of whimpering and giving in to the monster, or rising to slay it with technological indignation. But whatever the case, email is what it is. And it’s here to stay.”
Ashton has another trick for people who constantly check their email and texts — he leaves his phone on “do not disturb.” “I don’t bring it into my bedroom,” he says. “And I don’t look at it until I have set my goals for the day.”
Send More Productive Emails
Ever wondered why you didn’t receive a response to that email you sent a few weeks back? You probably sent it to the wrong person. Ashton encourages his employees at venture capital company Sound Ventures to facilitate better email communication across departments. “Here are the team members. If you want X, go to this person. If you want Y, go to that person. If you want Z, go to this person,” he explains. “If you go to me, the likelihood of my responding within 24 to 48 hours is very, very low, so go to these individuals who are responsible for these things.”
The average worker receives 122 emails a day — Ashton, though, probably receives hundreds more than that! — so he doesn’t have the time to reply to every message. Sending the right email to the right person not only improves your chances of a reply, but you can improve efficiency in your organization.
It’s not all about the recipient, though.
Sending an email with an eye-catching subject line — include a brief summary of your message in your header — and making a personal connection in your introduction can boost response rates. “As cliched as it is, one chance at a first impression will always hold true — particularly with emails,” says Search Engine Journal. “Influencers get hundreds of unsolicited emails every day, so they can spot a cut-and-paste job from a mile away.”
You might not have Ashton Kutcher’s million-dollar lifestyle or A-list contacts, but segmenting your morning routine and optimizing your email habits like him could result in a more productive day.
Before you open your Gmail app tomorrow, take a deep breath and outline your goals for the day instead. Like Ashton, you could maximize email management and bring more focus to your working life.
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