by Wayne Turmel

computer screen showing email inbox
Email should be productive, not something that drives you crazy.

Odds are that your remote team does more communication through email than anything else. That’s really quite amazing when you realize that it’s the first time since the invention of the telephone that the majority of business communication occurs both in writing and at the speed of electrons. It’s no big surprise though that writing and managing your email can feel a bit overwhelming.

Here are some simple tricks that you can use to make it a bit simpler for you. For what it’s worth, these work a whole lot better if you and your teammates agree to use them as a team…

If it’s important, put the primary readers in the “To” line. 

Those you’re just keeping in the loop can be copied. A number of our clients have adopted this as a way for everyone to maintain their sanity and to limit the time they spend frantically opening and reading emails that are meant merely as documentation or “letting everyone know.”  If you’re not a primary audience member, check and file it at your leisure.

Reset the “refresh rate” on your email.

Ever start doing a task, and then an email comes in so you have to check it, then go back to what you’re doing and “ding,” there it is again? It doesn’t have to be that way. You can set your email so it only checks for new messages every 15 or 30 minutes. That way you’ll get your email in bunches instead of that steady drip, drip, drip. If that feels too stressful, you can change those settings only for times you’re scheduled to work on important tasks, and then go back to being driven crazy at your regular pace.

Eliminate the audio signals for incoming messages.

Even if you can’t bring yourself to limit how often you receive or check messages, you can lower your stress level by eliminating the audio messages that you have incoming mail.  Incoming messages are easier to ignore if only one of your senses is being bombarded at the same time.

Make smarter choices between Instant Messaging and email, especially for speed.

Super-secret professional hint here: one has the word “instant” in it. If you’re sending emails then drumming your fingers waiting for an answer, you may be using it wrong. As a team, agree when it’s appropriate to use one tool over the other. For example, by using IM to determine if someone is at their desk and able to help, you avoid spending a “spray and pray” message that takes up everyone else’s time.

Color code your email to find things easier in your inbox (which of course you’re cleaning out regularly, right?)

One of the most important ways of managing your email is to set rules that govern how your inbox processes mail and does a lot of the sorting and filtering for you. For example, a simple trick is to take all email sent by one person (say, your boss) and change the color of the email in your inbox. (I have it set so everything from Kevin Eikenberry is in green) so you can pick the top priority messages out of the crowd. You can also do this by team, keyword and more.

Email is supposed to make your life easier; don’t let it make you crazy.

If you’d like to turn your remote team into email ninjas, we have the perfect training course. It can be delivered either remotely or at your site.


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.

Want more articles like this?

Subscribe to any of our e-newsletters to get them delivered directly to your inbox.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}