Let’s face it, email as a communication tool is consuming more and more of our time. It seems the more I try to manage my emails, the faster my inbox fills. Well…maybe that’s part of the problem. Let’s look at some ways to get email clutter under control – or at least reduce the stress it causes.
1. Check emails less often. Period. It’s a productivity killer, consuming a lot of time. Checking too often also signals that you’re always available and sets up expectations for immediate responses.
Solution. Designate a few times each day to check email, and not during your free time. Set a time limit.
2. Strive to clear your inbox. Just seeing thousands of emails can make your blood pressure rise! It also makes it difficult to find that one message you’re looking for. I agree that “inbox zero” is unrealistic (in case this in new to you, it means eliminating all or nearly all inbox emails by the end of the day). However, you should be processing your emails as you read them with the goal of eliminating as many as possible. Not doing so is like opening all your paper mail and leaving it in a pile on your kitchen counter (we’ll save that for another day!).
Solution. Take action as you check your messages. Delete as many as possible. Respond immediately where you’re able. Save events to your calendar and action items to your ‘to do’ list. Move important information that you need to retain into folders. Your inbox should be left with items that require more follow up. Set aside time to address those sooner than later. To clear up the build up of old emails, use group delete and allot time to clear a small amount each day.
3. Follow basic email etiquette. Just as you don’t like being on the receiving end of unnecessary or poorly written emails, make sure you set a good example for others.
Solution. Adhere to the following rules:
Start a new email thread for new subjects.
Write actionable and informative subject lines.
Keep messages short and sweet; be concise, organized and relevant.
Include only pertinent recipients.
Use “reply all” only when necessary.
Review your message before sending out.
4. Manage your junk email. Just like paper mail, a large part of email we receive is stuff we don’t want.
Solution. Here are some ways to get off mailing lists:
Old-fashioned “unsubscribe”. It takes time but it works.
Get a secondary “junk” email address which you use to place orders for online purchases or subscribe to shopping sites (this is a big source of junk mail).
Be careful when you set up online accounts. There’s almost always a “subscribe” button that you have to opt out of.
I hope these tips help you to get your email under control and increase your productivity! Let me know if I can help you with your organizing or productivity needs.