Email was intended to make communication quicker and easier but sometimes it’s more of a hindrance than a help. We now spend too long at work checking emails, trying to find old emails, searching through relevant chains for the information you need or trying to delete old mail. It seems emails is put as a priority above too many other business activities
Remember email is a tool to help not a priority. Here are ten tip to improve email management.
1. Process Once a Day
In some businesses you have to check email several times a day just to stay in the loop but you should only process them once a day. Try marking your calendar and setting your availability to busy to prevent interruptions.
Set aside a dedicate time in your daily life to process your emails. Prioritise the most important ones and then let the others go. Make a system that works for you, making sure you still acknowledge time sensitive emails. Don’t let your email account run your life.
The 80/20 rule is a great way of dealing with emails. “The 80/20 rule is the idea that twenty percent of inputs are responsible for eighty percent of outputs, meaning you should prioritize the twenty percent high value emails which will lead to maximum output,” advises leading email marketing manager Angela Bradley, from the Australian Reviewer.
These prioritized emails should be replied to immediately, if not at least get back in less than three days. For the other eighty percent you can allow yourself to take more time to reply, if you do feel to the need to engage with them.
3. You Don’t Have to Reply to Everything
Don’t feel obliged to reply to every email, no reply can often say as much as writing out an email. If you spend your day replying to emails just to acknowledge you’ve received them it will take you away from the things that actually need doing. Only reply if the cost of replying doesn’t outweigh the benefits then it’s not worth worrying about. Especially when so many emails are sent out to more people than necessary or are impulsive and often not relevant to your work.
For those you feel obliged to respond to create a folder for the lesser important emails that require responses. Set aside a day once every three days in a week to respond to these emails, it will take away the pressure to reply immediately and quell the fear of ignoring someone.
4. You Don’t Have to Answer Everything Urgent
This may sound a little counterintuitive but a lot of seemingly urgent emails resolve themselves without your assistance. Any urgent email about something going missing or not being able to get hold of a person are often resolved by themselves, wait an hour and see if you get a follow up email. The follow up email will declare if the situation has escalated or has been resolved.
This method also trains people to be more self-reliant and to have realistic expectations about how connected their colleagues can be to their inbox. This idea does require some common sense depending on which industry you work in, if you work in customer service and deal first hand with customers this will work differently.
5. Use a Template
There is probably a trend to the things you respond to. Use a template if you find you are repeating yourself on a daily basis. Customize the template to fit the needs of the email and it could save you vital work hours.
Using editing tools like Academ Advisor and Grammarix will save time on having to proofread and edit articles.
6. File into Categories
Folders, or labels for the gmail user, can be a great way to organize your mailbox. Use a relevant name system that works for you and sort them into a hierarchical structure. Remember just because you have folders and subfolders you don’t have to keep everything, don’t be afraid to delete messages you won’t ever need to look at again.
Prioritize, group, sort and file messages, this will make it easier to locate a specific email in the future. Create parent categories for broad subjects and then use subcategories related to more specific topics like a client or a work colleague’s correspondence.
Make sure you use obvious email subjects and put keywords in emails so they will be easy to relocate at a later date. Get help writing the best email subjects with UK Top Writers and Via Writing.
7. Be Ruthless in unsubscribing
We’ve all been guilty in signing up to newsletters in the hope of getting a discount code but these impulsive sign ups can quickly clog up an inbox. If you find yourself repeatedly deleting this type of mail from your inbox it means you should probably unsubscribe immediately.
To quicken the unsubscribing process search your inbox for the term “Unsubscribe” and determine whose emails you continue to want and those you find useless.
8. Send Less Emails
It may sound simple but a golden rule of email management is if you send less you receive less. The less people you send the email to the less response you’re likely to get, so when you go to send that email think about who really needs to see this information.
If you want to send an email but do not really want a response use declarations not open ended questions. Questions will generate more emails, which will require you to give more attention to your inbox.
9. Take It Offline
Email can be as destructive as it can be productive. Sometimes nuanced and often sensitive subjects can create inbox arguments. Words can easy be misconstrued and tone mistaken and the outcome can be combustible. If you find yourself in an antagonistic discussion stop, take it offline. Pick up a phone or have a face-to-face interaction, it is likely to douse the flames before they become too heated. An aggressive chain email will not help any situation and will seriously damage work productivity.
Only write an email if it’s necessary and avoid using anything personal that could initiate conflict. If you are concerned your emails could be misunderstood use a writing service like Revieweal.
10. Use Autoreplies
The out of office message can have lots of alternative uses. Set it up to inform people you are minimalizing your email time, but put an emergency number or your assistant’s contact details for the sender to refer to. If you are receiving a high level of emails about one subject, maybe the time of a meeting or a certain piece of data, if it’s not highly confidential add this to an out of office message.
Like any regimes there is no overnight results but the most critical step is sticking it for the long run. The keys tips to remember is not to let your inbox control you and to regular housekeeping to avoid being overwhelmed. At first you may struggle but following these steps will, in the long run, simplify your life.
Rachel Summers is a social media manager with seven years’ experience in the industry, working for big and small companies, including Best British Essays. Rachel, in their free time, advises small and start-up businesses on their social media campaigns.