You may have experienced a day that you started by working to clear out your inbox and suddenly realized that the entire morning had gone by and you were still pouring through and responding to emails. Here are a few tips on ways to better manage your emails without having them manage you!
Receive fewer emails by sending fewer emails
This may sound ridiculous. Stop for a moment to consider how many of your incoming emails are simply acknowledgements of receipt of an email sent by you. Stranger still, how many of your emails are replies back to your acknowledgement of an email sent to you? This type of back and forth can clutter an inbox quickly. Remember when you first decided to send emails instead of make phone calls, because it was faster and less time consuming? Now decide to only send emails when absolutely necessary.
Quick responses first
Picture 50 emails in your inbox. Imagine 15 of them will take some thought and effort to respond, whereas 35 of them are simple, quick responses you can knock out easily. As you go through your inbox of unread emails, respond to those that can be knocked out quickly first. If it will require some thought or research, simply mark the email as “unread” and move on. A good measurement is two minutes. If an email response will take you more than two minutes to process, mark it as “unread” and come back to it later. This will quickly reduce the size of your inbox and leave you only with the emails that will need some additional time. Come back to these later. You do not have to respond to every one of your emails in one sitting.
Before hours or after hours
In a global economy stretching across multiple time zones, many of us receive emails during the hours we are not at work. Some people choose to get up a little earlier in the morning and run through their inbox before going to the office or starting their day. Others prefer to take an hour before turning in for the night to process and respond to emails that came in since they left for the day. Either way, it is an opportunity to get a jump on your inbox.
Be clear and concise
Choose your wording carefully in an email and be specific. Eliminating any confusion or question on the part of the recipient will serve to eliminate emails coming back to you for further clarification of the message you are trying to convey.
To: vs Cc:
These are not the same. Make the distinction in your emails regarding who you need to keep informed (Cc:) versus who you are expecting a response from (To:). If you include everyone in the “To:” field, expect a response back from everyone.
Broad Discussion Topics
If there is a topic that will generate a lot of discussion among a large group of people, schedule a physical or online meeting to discuss with all interested parties, rather than sparking a discussion that will result in literally dozens of emails in everyone’s inbox. Emails are meant to be just one level above “texting;” a quick flow of information that will have a finite end in the short term.
Frequent, not constant
To stay “caught up” and current, it is important to check your inbox multiple times during the day. Establish a routine, whereby you check your inbox at certain times during the day. However, in order to maintain focus on your other tasks, close your email app when not in use. This will keep you from being interrupted by email notifications popping in. It is only natural to want to look at the email when you are notified, so try to avoid that temptation by closing the app.