What does your inbox look like? Can you find everything you need easily? Would you like to start your day without feeling swamped by your emails?
Email is an easy way to communicate but can also feel like a burden if not managed well. Below are some tips that I have put together (after years of trying to find the best approach) that help me keep my inbox clear and my emails under control.
- Rules: We all subscribe to different newsletters that clog up our inbox. We don’t always have time to read them when they come in so what do you do? Set up a rule so that every time an email from a specific source comes in it goes directly to an allocated folder. Then, when you have time you can go back to that folder and read your newsletters. This makes them easy to find and keeps them from clogging up the inbox.
- Folders: This may seem like a no-brainer but setting up filing folders, much the same as you would do for physical filing, is a must. Each client and/or project should have their own folder. I also set up folders for marketing, incoming newsletters, associations, administration etc. This will keep all of the relevant information in the same place so that when you want to go back and look for something you only need to search that folder and not your whole inbox.
- Categories: I use categories to mark the action needed on an email, such as ‘follow up’, ‘urgent’ or ‘send info’. When you are dealing with 10 emails at the same time it is easy to sort them via category. If something is to be followed up but not actioned immediately then categorise it as follow up, anything categorised as urgent can be actioned straight away.
- Reminders: If you are concerned that you will forget to action an email due to the large number of things on your to-do list, simply add a reminder to that task or email to ensure that you are prompted to take the appropriate action. Personally, I would be lost without my reminders especially if I need to action something in the next month or so.
- Allocate time to sort and manage: I have allocated myself time every day to sort and allocate an appropriate action for each email. I will usually spend around 10 minutes in the morning, around middle of the day, and at the end of the day for this task. I might move the email to a ‘follow up’, ‘read later’, ‘respond today’ folder or categorise as ‘urgent’. When looking at emails in the middle of the day I will normally only need to action the emails as I have already sorted and only need to deal with the actionable emails. At the end of the day I can deal with anything else that has come in during the day and clear, file or action anything that is left so that I know the next day I can start fresh.
- Use the 2 Minute Rule: if, when initially going through your emails, you know that it will take you less than 2 minutes to read and reply to, then deal with it there and then and file it away. This will always be more efficient than dealing with it later.
- Write less emails: it makes sense to say if you want to receive less email then write less email. There are occasions where a simple phone call would be more efficient as a response. Effective communication includes phone calls, face-to-face meetings and email so utilise all of these strategies and reduce the number of emails you send and receive.
To sum things up, make use of the features of your email program and don't let your email control you. Use the rules, reminders and categories. Set up a filing system so that everything is easily accessible and spend some time every day making sure that your email is under control.
A zero inbox is achievable but you have to be diligent and make managing your email a habit. It’s amazing how much you feel you can achieve when one part of your office life is organised.
If you have any additional ideas on how to keep your inbox under control please leave a comment below and share your experiences. If you need help getting your inbox organised or would like us to manage your inbox, contact us for a no obligation outsourcing strategy session to see how we can help you.