With more and more people working remotely these days, emails are being used more than ever.
This means our Inboxes are filling up really quickly!
Managing email effectively can be a struggle but is not impossible, especially if you use some of the following five strategies to help you to be more productive and able to get on with more of the work that you enjoy!
1. Create Folders
I suggest using the two-minute rule when dealing with the emails in your inbox. If it takes less than two minutes to read and action, then it is best to deal with it now, as it would probably take longer to read and store away to action later. If it is going to take longer than two minutes I suggest using folders.
You can have as many folders as you like but I recommend starting with at least three, something along the lines of;
Meetings and Appointments
This means that you can move emails out of your Inbox and into a folder to deal with later. It is certainly less stressful seeing just a handful of emails when you open up your Inbox each day.
By moving emails out of your Inbox to these folders you will be able to stay on top of what needs your urgent attention.
2. Use Highlight, Star or Flag those emails that can't be dealt with in two minutes or less
Using flags or stars can help identify which emails need your urgent attention and which can be dealt with later on. You can categorise emails by assigning different coloured flags, stars or even exclamation marks.
You can also set reminders that will notify you with a pop-up message that the email should be dealt with at a time/date you set, which is a great tool to utilise and ensure that emails are not forgotten about.
3. Reserve time to read and respond to emails
We all work differently, so decide what are the best times to attend to your emails for you and your business. Perhaps check in on emails every hour and give yourself 10 minutes to deal with emails that have come in. Some time management experts suggest just looking at your Inbox two or three times a day.
It may be that you need to check them first thing in the morning or perhaps you want to block out the first chunk of the day for concentrating on 'real' work before checking in on emails.
Whatever you decide, if you are not going to be checking your Inbox constantly throughout the day, I recommend adding a note to your email signature informing people when you are going to be checking your email. Then they will know they should phone or instant message you outside of those times if the matter is really urgent.
It would also be best to switch off any alerts or notifications so that you do not get distracted when new emails are received out of arranged times.
This strategy may not be suitable for every business, especially if you rely on email as your main communication tool. Just use your judgement based on your own circumstances.
4. Using Rules / Automation / Canned Responses
Using filters to automatically move emails into folders is a great way to keep your Inbox clear and save you the time of manually moving the messages yourself.
I have rules set up for emails received from newsletters or blogs, to go directly to a folder called 'Reading Material', which I usually go to in the evening to catch up on. The same goes for emails regarding my website, or some of the apps I use - I have created dedicated folders and a rule set up so that the relative emails go straight into those folders. None of them are urgent or from clients and I am able to check in on them in my own time.
Another great time saver is to create some canned responses or templates, especially if you find yourself sending the same kind of email again and again. In response to frequently asked questions, such as 'tell me about your services', or 'how do I set up an appointment', having pre-written emails that you can tweak if needed can save you a lot of time and brain power and consequently the email can be dealt with in under two minutes.
5. Unsubscribing from Newsletters or mailing lists you are no longer interested in
I am pretty sure we are all guilty of having emails from newsletters we no longer read or being on a mailing list that is no longer relevant to us and we never get around to unsubscribing from. Don't let them clog up your Inbox any more!
Just doing a simple 'unsubscribe' in your email search will bring up all the things you currently subscribe to. Then unsubscribe to everything no longer relevant to you.
Our email system should be there to make communication easier, not to make our lives more stressful. Even if you do not use all the strategies I have mentioned here, just using a couple should improve your productivity and mindset.
For many email systems these days it is easy to create folders and set up rules, filters and automation and I suggest these are the first things to look at if you want to tame your Inbox.
Of course, you may decide that you do not have the time or inclination to manage this yourself and this could be something easily delegated to someone else.