5 Easy Ways to Tame Your Email
It can seem like your email inbox is overflowing and with that, feeling overwhelmed is not far behind. Losing control of your inbox can mean you miss important emails and potentially significant, time-sensitive deadlines.
With the five easy email management tips discussed in this article, you’re well on your way to taming and befriending your inbox. Once you’ve changed your disorganized inbox by developing good email management habits, you can reap the benefits of more efficient and functional communication.
Acceptance — first of all, come to a place of acceptance that you will not get it all done. This is where a good structure of prioritization comes in. Understand and be kind to yourself about coming to terms with the fact that you will not complete everything. The key here is to ensure you tackle the most pressing items.
Prioritize — Even if you don’t get it all done, you still have to know about all of your emails. Use an email prioritization system to rank your emails in a way that allows you to prioritize the most important to the least important. Some people use the flagging feature within their email client; others choose to file emails in a way that makes sense to them. The key here is to be consistent with how you use the prioritizing system to be effective.
Set Standards — Assign yourself a standard of reply to emails you receive. Based on the expectations of your organization and your boss, set a maximum amount of time that people can expect a response. A reply will be made up of either an acknowledgment of the message itself or completion of the request, whichever occurs first within the set amount of time. Twenty-four hours is a reasonable amount of time, but this would get adjusted based on your industry and company.
Schedule Time — Schedule specific periods throughout the day to check your email. One strategy you can use is to check your email at certain times during the day. Choose those times based on the expectations of your organization and your boss. While it’s tempting to check emails as they come in, this distracts from real focused work and isn’t an efficient use of your time. According to a University of California Irvine study, when you get distracted, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.”
Use Email Rules — Email rules, when used intentionally, can reduce the overall size of your email inbox and bring structure to how your review email. Frequent reports or non-urgent emails can automatically get filed into their folders for review when time permits. A caution with this approach is regularly reviewing these inbox rules to ensure that you aren’t missing critical communication. Depending on your company’s email client, there are varying levels of complexity on what email rules will do, including, but not limited to, playing a sound or doing an action when you receive an email for which you have a rule set up.
The most important piece of email management is consistency. Choose the best configuration that works for you and stick to it. Consistently doing this the same way will ensure that nothing is missed or falls through the cracks.
Proper email management will reduce stress and give you back a sense of control over your daily work life, safeguarding against missing important emails. Setting up a clear structure around managing your communication will build trust with your co-workers, who will come to expect consistency from you. Own your inbox instead of letting your inbox own you.