Ah, the email inbox – that double-edged sword. Can be your friend, can be your worst enemy. I’ve worked with clients who just get stuck and don’t know what to do and cry for help because they just can’t take it anymore.
Imagine 3,487 unread messages. That’s a lot.
If I were the owner of this inbox, I’d go crazy. Mine is usually at zero. I personally don’t like it when I have unread messages. I thought this was a good thing, until I found myself obsessing over deleting, reading, and archiving emails the entire day. Thus leaving me with very little time to do actual work.
So I came up with a strategy to manage my email better, and it involved revamping my email habits. Here are some of them:
1 – Never checking email in bed
I had a habit of immediately checking my phone for messages when I wake up in the morning. With smartphones, this has become very convenient. However, it was hurting my productivity. Why? Because then I respond and do whatever task I needed to, which throws me off my pre-planned list of activities/tasks for the day. It’s the same at night, before going to bed. Instead of relaxing your mind so you can recharge for the next day, you are left worried and your mind goes into overdrive. And if you’re obsessive like me, there’s a likely chance you’re going to get back up and face the computer again to finish whatever tasks you need to do (per the emails you just read).
What I suggest: set a time to read and respond to emails.
Turn your notifications off as alerts may distract you from doing the work you’re supposed to do. Close your email program and don’t check it until the allotted time. Anyway, if something urgent comes up, your boss, client, or coworkers can always message you via Skype or Slack, or any of the messaging platforms you use for work. It’s helpful to set up an automated response, letting people know when you check your emails – just so you don’t come off as an email snob.
2 – Acting quickly
By the time you check your inbox, you should act quickly to save time. Make sure to go over your unread emails and immediately delete messages which you feel aren’t that important, such as promotional emails and spam. Urgent emails should be responded to within 48 hours. But let’s say there’s an issue and you’re unable to sort it out just yet, then respond to the sender, acknowledge receipt, and let them know you’re on it and will respond in detail at a later time.
3 – Making use of filters
For my clients, I set up automatic filters for any messages that may come from their family just so it won’t interfere with any of our work-related emails. Personally, I set up filters for messages from different clients because I do a time-boxing, which means that I have a set time for a specific client. This is so I don’t think of another client’s stuff when I go through the other’s. This strategy helps you focus.
4 – Unsubscribing from promotional emails
You know that feeling when you just want to get that free downloadable or resource and you’re forced to give up your email address? Yeah, I’ve been there a gazillion times. The end result? An avalanche of promotional emails in my inbox daily. Even when Gmail has set up subfolders, I still get annoyed because – as I’ve mentioned – I don’t like it when I have unread emails on my inbox. So hit that Unsubscribe button to free up your inbox. If not, you can sign up for unroll.me, which saves you space as it combines all of your promotional emails in one message, which you can check later and delete all together.
5 – Writing concise messages
Save time by sending brief, straight-to-the-point emails. Say what you mean, mean what you say – in a professional way. Your receiver will thank you too. Also in order for you to receive less mail, then send less as well.
How about you? What are your email strategies? Share so we can all learn from each other! Your thoughts are welcome! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or add me on social media!