If your inbox resembles a wasteland of lost emails that you vaguely remember seeing, and every morning sitting down at your desk fills you with dread thinking of all of the messages you need to reply to, keep reading!
As a born organiser, I break out into a cold sweat whenever my unread emails start to reach double figures, so have developed lots of strategies to keep on top of a busy inbox. I'm here to offer you some strategies to help manage your emails more effectively, and gain back valuable time, so that you are no longer a slave to your inbox.
The sheer volume of electronic correspondence we receive daily and need to respond to can feel overwhelming, which is why we all need to employ strategies to manage our emails more effectively and stop being a slave to the inbox and get on with the real work at hand.
I could spend hours here, so I will try and keep to my top tips which will really make an immediate impact for you...Keep in mind that these strategies may not work for everyone. So use your own best judgement when you think about how to manage your email.
Limit when you check your messages
This is my biggest tip, and the one that will have an immediate impact. By setting yourself limits to only checking your email on set points of the day, you will be able to focus on tasks without being distracted by a pinging inbox.
I check my emails first thing, before lunch and at the end of the working day, and then reserve time to read and respond to emails after long periods of focused work, when energy levels may be lower.
Take action as you read it!
How many times do you look at an email and think about the fact that you must answer it? By immediately choosing to delete, file, or type out a quick response (and then filing), you are reducing the amount of time you are spending on that email. You will also be keeping your inbox at a manageable size rather than a slow building mountain causing your stress levels to grow.
Another strategy to use is the "Two-Minute Rule" (courtesy of David Allen's book 'Getting Things Done'): when you read your mail – if it will take less than two minutes to read and reply to, then take care of it right now, even if it's not a high priority. The idea behind this is that if it takes less than two minutes to action, it takes longer to read and then store the task away "to do later" than it would to just take care of the task now.
For emails that will take longer than two minutes to read or respond to, schedule time on your calendar, or add this as an action on your to do list. Most email programmes allow you to highlight, flag, or star messages that need a response, so utilize this handy feature whenever you can.
Turn off notifications
I know that you can't ignore your email completely, but constant checks and notifications are distractions that are affecting your productivity. By turning off the notifications and limiting when you check your messages, you will cut down on the interruptions and focus on what you should be doing.
Folders are your friend!
Keeping your main inbox cleared helps eliminate stress and make us feel more organised. A completely empty inbox (or 'inbox zero') is the holy grail, but by establishing folders, you can file all actioned emails, and know that your inbox only contains messages that still require action.
Firstly, set up folders for key clients/suppliers/team members/projects - you get the picture. By filing all emails in there, you will be able to easily find key messages quickly, rather than knowing it is *somewhere* in your overflowing in box.
Next, set up folders with broad categories such as 'Action Items' and 'To Read'. You can then file emails from your inbox into those folders, which act as a prompt for your daily to do list. Just remember to move the messages out of those folders and into their long term folder once they have been actioned. Make sense?!
Learn the rules!
Most email programmes, such as Outlook and Gmail, have tools allowing you to establish "Rules" that sort email into a particular folder as soon as it comes in.
For example, if you receive an end of day sales report, or perhaps a daily round up of your campaigns from Mailchimp, consider setting up a rule so that they go straight into a specific folder, which you can then go into and read when you are ready.
Do you receive emails from every online shop that you have ever shopped at? Do you receive regular blog and newsletter updates? For this, there are several options. I have a specially set up gmail account that I use for all online purchases and subscriptions. Once a week, I will read through any that catch my eye, but at least they are not clogging up my main inbox.
If you are feeling particularly ruthless, perhaps start considering unsubscribing from the time sapping sales updates, keeping only those that you particularly want to receive updates from.
Let someone manage your inbox for you
If you really do feel that you don't have the time to implement these strategies, you may wish to outsource diary management to a Virtual Assistant. There are many wonderfully organised and skilled professionals who will happily take on the task of keeping your inbox stress free. They will be able to wade through the spam, send out quotations and invoices on your behalf. They will prioritise mails, sending replies where appropriate. Many VA's will also create To-Do Lists for you by doing a round up of your most urgent emails requiring responses. This service falls into many VA's administrative services,
Pssst! Want Insta tips, productivity hacks and links to the best apps and websites to help you beat your To Do List and connect with your audience straight into your inbox? Click here