What would you do without email? The freedom to send over a quick message, without having to schedule in time for the inevitable chitchat that’s involved in a call. The convenience of being able to check in with your clients, send a quick message to a colleague and set up meetings even when you’re out and about. Email enables you to manage your work from just about anywhere and at the time that suits you. It’s brilliant. BUT email management can also be a drain on your productivity.
You might receive hundreds, maybe even thousands, of emails a day. The time taken to read, reply and react to every message can easily become a significant drain on your time and energy. In fact, research by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2012, found the average professional spends 28% of their working day reading and responding to email. My guess is this figure will only have increased over the years.
Are you suffering with email overload?
Despite hours of inbox-focused screen time, you may still find yourself overwhelmed by email clutter. Is your inbox over-spilling with old, unread and unimportant messages? This chaos can be a source of stress. Emails piling up, is a stark reminder of all the things you need to do and how little control you have over your workload. Constantly checking emails is also a distraction that can interrupt your progress with other tasks. And what about all that time you spend trying to track down a rogue email that seems to have vanished from your inbox?
Clearing up your inbox can also help to clear up your mind. But where do you start?
6 email management tips
To start clearing the clutter out of your inbox, you’ll need to get organised. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Allocate time for your email management
Over-checking your email wastes valuable time in your working day. Instead, set aside time in your diary to focus on your inbox. This might be 30 minutes at the start or end of the day, or maybe an hour over lunch. Choose a time that suits your schedule. Then stick to it.
If you feel uncomfortable leaving your inbox unmanned for longer periods, consider setting up an auto response to acknowledge every email instantly and explain the likely timeframe for your response.
2. Save time with templates
Do you find yourself sending a lot of the same emails over and over again? Maybe instructions on how to perform a certain task? An answer to a frequently asked question? Or a holding email to explain you’ll respond in full as soon as you can? Creating templates means you have these responses pre-drafted and handy, so you can respond promptly even on busy days. You could also share these with your PA (or VA) so they can action these common emails on your behalf.
3. Organise your inbox with a simple filing system
Group, sort, file and prioritise messages. Getting organised with your email management is a great way to take control of your inbox. Have you thought about using categories in Outlook? Or labels in Gmail? These tools help you to classify your emails so you can see immediately what needs your attention, what you’re awaiting a response on, and what’s for reading later.
4. Set up filters to classify incoming mail (so you can find it when you need it)
Use filters to send incoming emails to a label. For example, direct non-urgent items such as newsletters to a ‘READING’ folder or collect invoice emails in a folder for ‘NEXT PAYMENT RUN’. This makes going back and finding one message among the thousands in your inbox easier.
5. Make a regular detox part of your email management routine
Are important emails struggling to get your attention amongst all your unread mail? First of all, unsubscribe from emails you don’t read. Keeping on top of your unsubscriptions can instantly remove some of the clutter in your inbox. But also, remember to habitually check your junk mail for important messages that could be lurking there incorrectly.
6. Take action straight away
Taking immediate action can help to prevent inbox overwhelm. If you can reply to an email in less than two minutes, do it immediately and move it out of your inbox. Also, make it a habit to add important emails to diary entries straight away, so this information will be right there waiting for you when you open your calendar entry. This is a simple practice that can reduce the time you spend scrambling through your inbox looking for notes relating to an appointment.
Is your inbox out of control?
You may need help putting an email management system in place that will work for you. Or perhaps you’d like some support with a one-off “inbox detox”? Please book a consultation and we can provide some advice on how to overcome email overwhelm.