One of the most overwhelming aspects of working life is the constant battle against the email mountain. We get so many messages in our inboxes every day that it can feel like a full-time job just to read them, answer them and undertake any action points. Add to that the junk mail that clutters our inboxes and it is a wonder we get any work done. The good news is that it is possible to take control. We have created some tips for email management and information on how to organise your inbox. Keep reading to find out more.
Where to Start With Organising Your Inbox
If you are faced with that constant counter at the bottom of your screen, showing that you have hundreds, possibly thousands of unread emails, you need to organise your inbox before you can move on to the next stage of email management. This is where you need to get brutal.
Organise your emails by sender and search for those senders that you know you don’t need to keep emails from. It could be notifications from Facebook, mailing list messages from companies, reminders from the dentist or anything else. Highlight all of the emails from these unimportant senders and hit DELETE. You should have eaten into your unread emails in style now.
Now sort by date and check how old the earliest emails are. Think to yourself, ‘when was the last time I did anything with an email that was more than a year old?’ If you cannot remember, chances are you can delete anything older than a year without missing out on anything. Now change that to six months, then four months, then shorten the timeframe until you reach one that you feel you might revisit sometime soon.
Now go through the remaining emails and put those that you need to keep into folders. If you use GMail, you can tag them. Outlook provides categorizing, all of which make it easier to find those emails you actually need in the future.
Delete anything you do not need.
This is how you organise your inbox. Now you have defeated that dragon, you are ready for the tips for email management going forwards.
Tips for Email Management
1) Set Aside Time to Process Emails
Emails are not there to run your life. They are an aid to business, but they are not your job. It is easy to be partway through a task, spot an email notification and get pulled onto something else. This breaks your focus on the previous job and means that you are half-heartedly working on two tasks, rather than devoting your concentration to a single task at a time.
So, you should be aware of important messages that are time-critical, but anything else you should ignore until your designated processing time. Give yourself a window and anything you do not process in that time has to wait until the next day. This helps in your diary management efforts too.
2) Prioritise Your Emails
Not all emails are created equally. Some are hugely important and some are definitely not. When you process your emails, you can get a good idea straight away of which camp each message falls into.
Tackle the most important first and then work down in your email management process. That way, it isn’t too much trouble if you run out of time to process an unimportant email because you have sorted those that really matter.
We are all guilty of signing up for too many newsletters. Between influencers and your favourite retailers, your inbox can quickly fill up with mailouts. Part of email management is to stop the stream of distractions coming in, so set aside an hour or two for an unsubscribe session is time well spent. If you rarely read it, it doesn’t help your working life and it doesn’t offer any kind of joy, take yourself off that list.
4) Use Email Rules
We love automation here. It is essential to every modern business to ensure we can work smarter and save ourselves time. This is why we also love email rules. With Gmail, Outlook, and all sorts of other programs you can set rules that automatically file emails into folders as they come in.
Set the rules to filter those with certain phrases in them, from certain senders or any other way of organising them. It all depends on what will help you in the future when you come to seek out the information they provide.
Keep all emails from each client in separate folders, or any messages that relate to a certain project. It is up to you how you organise your inbox, but take advantage of rules to stop your email from becoming a mountain again.
5) Use the Calendar to Track Email Replies
Some emails require just a single line reply. Others need a more in-depth approach. For those, you cannot dispense within seconds, set a reminder in your calendar with a deadline for when you need to reply. This means you don’t forget to take action.
An alternative is to add each important email to your project management software. You can create a task in apps like Asana with a due date to remind you to reply in good time.
Need More Email Management Help?
If the thought of email management still fills you with cold dread, you can delegate your inbox duties to a virtual assistant. We can organise your inbox on your behalf and maintain your email organisation going forwards, so you know all the important information you need to know and don’t have to deal with the thousands of irrelevant messages that could otherwise build up.
Book a free consultation today to find out how we can help you.