Do you dread opening your email each morning? Keeping up with the demands of your inbox might be challenging – especially in the holiday season – but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Here are some tips for better ways of working through your emails:
1. Time. Identify ideal times of the day when you can focus on checking and responding to emails, preferably not first thing in the morning, which can derail productivity. This doesn’t mean it’s the only time you can look at email during the day, just that you have allotted time for dealing with it.
2. Liberate. Whether it’s during a break, or the end of the day, an uncluttered inbox will make you feel better, so make it a goal to get rid of stuff you don’t need – it’s liberating.
3. Once. We are all guilty of scanning emails and letting them sit in our inbox for far too long. Break yourself of this habit. Once you open an email, deal with it. If you can read and respond in less than two minutes, just get it over with. If you’re not sure how to respond yet – file it.
4. File. Email shouldn’t linger in your inbox. Set up a filing system that works for you and use it. Don’t make the mistake of creating too many folders – it’ll just get confusing. Three to four folders will suffice. Try a variation of “Action,” “Waiting” and “Archive” folder labels.
5. Simplify. Use the flagging, labelling and/or colour-coding features of your email. Colours can mean whatever you need them to, just keep it consistent. If you must keep email in your inbox, make sure you only keep the most recent message with the full thread, not each individual message on the same subject. You can also consider if it’s worth the time to change the subject line of emails you want to file or archive so the email content is clear, without having to skim it.
6. Search. If you know you can rely on the search function of your email to retrieve what you’re searching for, you’ll be less likely to over-save stuff that “might” be important in your inbox or overload your “keep just in case” folder.
7. Unsubscribe. Take a deep breath, and hit “unsubscribe” yourself from anything that’s no longer relevant to you. That golf club you belonged to five years ago still sending you update emails? Click unsubscribe and you’ll eliminate the unwanted mail, time it takes to delete it and the guilt that comes with knowing you’ll never keep up with it any-ways.
8. Necessary? Before you send that email or respond (again) on the same issue, ask yourself, would a phone call or visit be quicker? Or, can I table the issue and bring it up when we meet face-to-face next week? It’s so easy to just shoot off emails, so think before you hit send – no one likes an overfilled inbox.
Managing your email isn’t about what works best for everyone, it’s about finding out what works best for you.