Email: if you’re tech-savvy, you hate it for its clunkiness and inefficiency. If you’re a manager, you hate it because it drains the life out of your team by clogging their workflow and killing productivity. Increasingly, it also takes up a huge part of the day – workers now spend as much as 25 percent of their week managing inboxes¹.
Nevertheless, it’s still the prime tool of choice across the board when it comes to business communication. All we can do is embrace what we can’t change and learn to better manage our emails. Here are 5 tips to help you on your way.
1. Learn to Love the ‘Delete’ Button
One thing that’s frustrating to no end is that chronic, uneasy feeling you get when inbox clutter is filling up your inbox. Hanging onto messages you ‘think’ you might read later is a major reason your inbox is unmanageable.
Learning to quickly identify which emails don’t require any action (or won’t help you even if you do eventually read them) will serve you well in decluttering your inbox. If you delete these without even opening them up, you’ve won your first battle.
2. Act Now or Forever Hold Your Clutter
This second tip goes hand-in-hand with the first tip: the general idea here is to remove clutter before you even dig into your important emails. Aside from deleting the obvious clutter, you can also mark messages that don’t require an instant response from you.
Use color coding, if your email software offers this capability. This works well for emails that need a response but which aren’t critically urgent. Alternatively, you can use folders. Anything to separate the urgent from the non-urgent.
If you’re on email newsletter lists that give value to your day, deal with them immediately, too. You probably don’t read them as they come in, so devise a system for keeping them handy but not so they’re cluttering up your inbox. Folders work well.
3. Review Your Subscriptions Monthly
Speaking of newsletters… Your interests and needs change from month to month, so take the time to review the newsletters to which you subscribe. You may discover that some aren’t what they were cracked up to be, so unsubscribe.
4. Examine Your Email Behavior
There are also ways you can prevent clutter from happening in the first place.
- Before you send an email, stop and think, do I really need to send this? Maybe your office has a project management platform like Slack that better serves your needs.
- ‘Reply All’ is used far too often so use it sparingly.
- If you’re emailing a document, surely there’s a better way to share.
5. Consider Segmenting Your Email Time
If you’re addicted to checking your email, then it’s pretty safe to say that email is lowering your productivity. Business people send and receive an average of 122 emails per day, so it’s essential to wean yourself from the habit of constantly checking for incoming messages².
Try this instead: consider opening your email client only three times per day. Once in the morning, once mid-day, and once before you go home. Can’t fathom letting hours at a time go by with no email? Here’s a modification: check it only once every hour but limit yourself to 10 minutes.
Try some or all of these strategies, and you may someday get to that coveted state of existence known as ‘inbox zero’. Good luck!