Do you ever feel that you are no further ahead than you were when you started the day? Email can distract us from the important work and steal our focus. Carleton University has released some alarming statistics that show that most people spend about a third of their work time reading and responding to emails. Many of these emails are not urgent or necessary.
Whether you love it or hate it, email is an essential part of business life. We can’t live without it. What you can do, however, is boost your productivity and avoid the stressful feelings associated with email overload, using these 10 tips to help you better manage your inbox.
1. Make a date with your messages
It can be tempting to check your email every time there is a notification. However, this disrupts your workflow which in turn makes it difficult to concentrate. It is better to disable all notifications and to set a time and frequency to respond to each email as a batch. You can do this depending on your work schedule.
2. Adopt the two-minute rule
If you have to check your email more often than once or twice a day, make a rule to put aside emails that take longer than 2 minutes to respond to and read. This will prevent your inbox becoming overloaded and won’t cause you to lose focus for prolonged periods.
3. Hit snooze
If you have multiple emails End. to the same topic, such as contributions to a document, or projects, you might want to batch them so that you can work on them all at once. You can choose to send an email to yourself and have it snoozed until you are ready for it to appear in your inbox.
This is useful when you are unable to respond immediately, or because you need time to research the answer. By snoozing emails, you can avoid the mental and physical clutter that comes with an inbox full if unresolved emails.
4. Don’t reply to everything
Not every email needs or merits a reply, especially if you have colleagues who use the CC and BCC options to send emails that aren’t relevant to you. Consider whether you really need to reply and whether the value of doing so outweighs any time lost. If you have emails that need to be answered but not urgently, make a folder and allow yourself time to go through it each day.
5. Consolidate newsletters and subscriptions
If you are overwhelmed with promotional emails and newsletters, do a purge. You will unsubscribe to any that you haven’t opened in a while. You can use Unroll.me to consolidate emails and make it easier to read them as you need them. This will allow you to focus on the important tasks at hand.
6. Use a more appropriate alternative
Email may not be the best or most efficient way to ask a question or send a message. You might consider whether a phone call, Skype meeting, or face-to-face conversation may be better than emailing. This not only reduces miscommunication but also greatly reduces the amount of emails that are ping-ponging back to each other in an attempt to reach the same goal. Don’t be afraid of answering a phone call even if the original question was sent via email.
7. Organize your inbox
Keeping track of your emails and retrieving old messages are much easier when you have a well-organized inbox. If you use Gmail, create a system using labels or folders to organize your mail. You can create broad, high-level categories and then add subcategories. To reduce clutter even further, don’t forget that you can delete any items you no longer need.
8. Set some rules
Most email clients let you set filters or rules that send your emails to the most relevant folder. This will help you save time and organize your inbox. This article from Mailbird.com explains how corporations manage email.
9. Design templates
Take a look at your emails and mark any common areas. These can be used to create templates.
10. Have a time limit
Even if you only process your emails at certain times during the day, set a time limit for how long you can spend in your inbox. This will help you to prioritize important emails and keep your responses as concise as possible.