When electronic communications first hit us in the 1990s, little did we understand how much it would control our lives in the future.
What is in this article
Gone are the paper based in-trays, that by the very nature of delivery dips into complete inefficiency, and are now replaced by a plethora of always available folders and online filing systems.
With the average user receiving 147 emails a day, which takes us about 2.5 hours a day. We delete 71 emails (which admittedly only takes us 5 minutes), but then spend 90 minutes processing just 12 emails.
It is therefore not a surprise that it’s easy for our inboxes to become overwhelmed with emails. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and a feeling of being constantly behind.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a few simple tips, you can tame your inbox and reclaim control of your day.
Set aside dedicated time for checking your emails.
Personally, I treat emails as a ‘slow’ way to get hold of me.
Emails are good for confirmation, but not for immediate action. I check emails twice a day (in morning and evening) as I find that being always on with emails can be disruptive and lead to information overload.
So, avoid checking emails constantly throughout the day. Instead, set aside a specific time each day to check and respond to emails to increase your inbox control.
Create folders for different types of emails to improve your email efficiency.
Just as in the paper filing systems – we can electronically file our incoming emails to maximise our efficiency.
Some common folders include “Inbox,” “Important,” “Action Required,” “Follow-Up,” and “Newsletters.”. By using these email folders we can move emails out of the inbox into action folders.
Regularly purge, delete and/or unsubscribe from unwanted emails
I think we all get spammed – from companies offering you unbelievable returns on their new blingy advertising system, through emails you have signed up for to ones you simply no longer want.
Don’t let your inbox get cluttered with emails that you don’t need. Unsubscribe from newsletters and promotional emails that you don’t read. And delete emails that you no longer need.
Use filters to automatically get improved email efficiency.
Most email reading programs have filters. These filters can automatically file certain emails for you. This can save you time and prevent you from having to manually move emails to different folders. For example, you can create a filter to automatically move all emails from a specific sender to a specific folder.
Respond to emails promptly.
I adopt a 2 minute rule.
Anything that I can process in 2 minutes or under gets processed when I am doing my first read through of the emails.
The sooner you respond to emails, the less likely they are to pile up and stress you out. Therefore, aim to respond to emails within 24 hours. If you need more time to respond, let the sender know.
Set statuses to indicate when you’re unavailable.
Some systems do this automatically (such as teams for internal meetings). Make use of the out of office function.
This will help to prevent people from emailing you when you’re not able to respond. You can use statuses like “Away from Computer” or “Busy.”
Use templates for repetitive emails.
A most under used function. Think about how you can standardise certain responses. For example, a request for a sales call, or perhaps a joining instruction for a course. Have these items canned so that they can be automated / or cut and pasted to reduce handling time.
This will save you time and ensure that your emails are consistent. You can also create templates for emails that you send frequently, such as thank-you notes or follow-up emails.
Use snooze to temporarily delete emails.
If things are getting too busy – you can snooze emails which take them out of your inbox. This is a great way to temporarily hide emails that you don’t need to deal with right away. You can snooze an email for a specific amount of time, or until a certain date.
This is available online for GMAIL and 365 users.
Use email archiving to save important emails.
A similar method to #2 above, but is a built in function to most email programs.
This will free up space in your inbox and make it easier to find older emails. You can create folders for different types of archived emails, such as “Client Contracts” or “Project Files.”
Use a productivity app to manage your emails.
There are many great productivity apps that can help you to manage your emails. This delivers greater productivity than simply an email. Some examples include being able to send emails directly into your CRM program and save information ones to your digital storage.
A nifty program like Boomerang allows you to control email delivery times as well as getting clients to interact directly with your calendar (without seeing the content of course).
So there are 10 suggestions on how to work on improving your email inbox control.
They certainly are not intended to be prescriptive – we develop our own style and processes, but thinking these through will certainly enable greater email control.