If you don’t have a specific plan for managing your incoming emails each day, things can easily get out of hand and your emails might be the ones managing you, not the other way round.
However, email management is actually quite an easy process once you know what pitfalls you need to pay attention to. To help you become more productive at work and manage your emails more effectively, I have put together the following guide. If you take the time to incorporate these tips into your daily routine, you won't have to worry about an overflowing inbox and you'll see a great improvement in the way you work and the amount of tasks you’ll be able to complete in a day.
1. Deal with it first thingThe first thing you should do when you begin your workday is to go through your emails. Don’t wait until the afternoon because you’ll only end up with more, and it will become an even bigger burden on you. Make sure to incorporate this into your daily routine and stick to it.
2. PrioritiseAlthough checking your messages first thing in the morning is an effective way of managing your emails, not every email you receive will be a high priority one. Rather than looking at your inbox and immediately feeling overwhelmed by what’s in front of you, look at what needs to be dealt with immediately. The emails that require your immediate attention are the ones you should focus on, the rest can wait until later.
If you use Gmail, you can use Gmail Priority Inbox to determine what emails coming into your inbox are important - although most email providers should have a similar feature.
3. Don’t send too many emailsAlthough this may sound obvious, but the more emails you send, the more you will get in return and the more overwhelmed you’ll feel by looking at your constantly growing inbox.
However, this is where prioritising comes in. If you try to select the emails that need your immediate attention and deal with them first, then you won't be sending emails constantly and your inbox will be much easier to manage.
4. Schedule time to check your emailsOne of the most common time-wasting habits people have these days is constantly checking their emails. To avoid this problem and to keep your inbox at manageable levels, allocate blocks of 15 minutes for checking and replying to your emails.
As I said in the first point, try to do this first thing in the morning and then allocate further blocks throughout the day, if needed. You could put a block 15 minutes before your lunch break and another before you finish for the day. This way, you will have three blocks each day for checking and replying to emails.
5. Get rid of spamSpam is probably one of the biggest pains we experience on a daily basis. Dealing with it effectively requires you to filter what emails have been sent to you directly and what was sent to you as part of a mailing list.
The easiest way to do this is to set up a filter where you automatically detect incoming emails that contain the word ‘unsubscribe.’ If an email contains this word, you know it’s been sent to you as part of a mailing list and doesn’t require your immediate attention. You can automatically get these emails sent to your spam folder so you can deal with them when you get the time.
6. Use group listsIf you find that you email the same people in your workplace regularly, then creating a group list with these contacts might be a good idea. You can even create multiple lists for different categories, which will make it much easier to email these people in the future.
All you’ll need to do then is to simply search through the groups you’ve created and you’ll find your contacts. This process is much more effective and less time consuming than individually searching for contacts every time you need to contact them.
7. Turn off your notificationsOne of the biggest productivity killers during the workday is constantly checking your notifications. Whenever you have an email notification go off, you lose focus on the task you are doing. It’s a proven fact that distractions have a negative effect on both your productivity and the quality of your work.
Depending on your role in your workplace email alerts might be necessary, but if they are not then turn them off as they are highly distracting and unnecessary.