How awesome is email? With it, we can work remotely, delegate, share files, manage teams, stay productive while traveling and more.

Yet as useful as it is, managing email can also waste time, challenge communication and foster bad habits. Here are a few simple ways to ensure email does not secretly undermine you or your team’s success.

Buzzword Bingo

Regardless of industry, the business world has spawned many buzzwords and phrases by which we are often expected to abide. Email can challenge many of these and thus it becomes a critical battleground in our fight against inefficiency.

For example, with email, we can respond to anyone, anytime and anywhere; presumably, this makes us more efficient. However, multi-tasking does not make us more efficient and thus we must manage expectations when it comes to when and how fast emailers can expect a response.

The two best ways to keep emails from monopolizing our time are to state our expectations around email responsiveness clearly and then follow our own rules.

In other words, if we do not want our team to respond to email after hours, then we should not email them after hours. Or, if we plan to be out of the office and not checking email, then we should note that in the out of office reply and, you guessed it, we should not check email.

Define Tools

With the preponderance of tech solutions at our fingertips, it can be extremely helpful to look at the tools available and ensure email is being optimized.

For example, in many cases, brief back and forth emails to set up a meeting can be handled quicker by instant message; brainstorming on a project is a lot more efficient on a shared platform; and saving documents for future reference is best kept away from email on an appropriately sized and backed-up platform.

Figuring out the best ways to use email as a tool to assist productivity in the organization and exploring options to add additional tools to streamline the use of email is fairly straightforward. We can start by taking a look at how we use email to interact with our teams, other departments and any external stakeholders. Then, look at what other options may be available to address some of those uses.

Most email platforms contain or link to companion tools that manage and optimize work flow between and among teams. Figure out what options are available and then define which tools will be used for what; test the options and then make whatever works best mandatory. By embracing the most efficient tool for the job and then getting everyone on the same platform, we can streamline collaboration, communication and connectivity.

The bottom line is, while email can be helpful, our habits around its use can undermine our communication, productivity and efficiency.

Define the best way to use email, make clear expectations around email, require everyone to follow those expectations, then lead by example — doing so will ensure email is a productive tool that supports instead of undermining your success.