Email gives us the opportunity to communicate instantly without any cost attached to it and that’s precisely why everyone uses it. But, when you have to process hundreds of emails every day, email management can be more of a distraction than help.
A typical business user sends and receives over 600 emails per week – that is a lot, and some say that this makes it a bad way to communicate. The truth is – email is not inefficient, but we use it inefficiently. On that note, here are some tips to process your emails better.
1. Get to know your email platform thoroughly
True, you might have been using your Gmail or Outlook account for years now, but that doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about it.
Many of these platforms have advanced features and shortcuts that can make handling your emails easier and you are probably not aware of them.
For example, did you know that in Gmail:
- Shift + 8+ u selects all the unread messages?
- Pressing ‘e’ archives all the selected messages?
- You can use undo send feature for accidentally sent emails?
There are many such features, tricks, and shortcuts that can make handling and replying to emails way easier, and faster.
2. Schedule email-time every day, and stick with the routine
According to a study in 2012, workers spend more than a quarter of the day reading and answering email.
You may be tempted to want to check your inbox every 30 minutes, but that can be very distracting. It can lead you to jump from one task to another, wasting time and affecting your work output and general productivity.
You may think that it is efficient to keep checking emails every 15 minutes to not let them back up, but this can steal your attention from an important task at hand.
What you can do instead is, set up a schedule, for example, tell yourself that you will check your emails, once every 2-3 hours. Have a fixed routine so that you don’t get tempted to open your email whenever. For example, check email once when you get to work, later before you go for lunch and once before leaving the workplace.
This will ensure that you give prompt responses and at the same time not waste all your time on email.
3. Close or block the email after your scheduled time
We get it, the email alert at the bottom of your screen practically screams at you to click on it. You see the ‘3 unread emails’ notification and your curiosity as to what those emails are about is driving you crazy. The very distraction you are trying to avoid is right in front of your eyes.
Here’s what you should do – close your email tab and switch off the notifications before and after the time you have scheduled for email checking. In fact, if you want to, go a step further and use email blocking tools to keep you from opening emails in the non-scheduled time.
Did you know that around 90% of the emails are not even important – that they are little more than spam? If you let yourself disturbed by every promotional email you get, how will you ever get anything done?
4. Declutter your inbox every day
Decluttering your inbox once every month or every few weeks isn’t the right way to go; it is more time-consuming that way. Instead, adopt a system to declutter it on a daily basis.
For example, after you are done reading an email and think that you don’t need it anymore, delete it immediately. If a newsletter you are getting is of no use to you, unsubscribe immediately.
Getting unwanted emails out of the way immediately is a good practice, it can free up valuable space in your inbox; the more emails you store the harder it is going to get for you to look for the important emails when you need them in the future.
5. Keep emails organized
Another important tip which helps you manage your inbox and by extension your time more efficiently is keeping your inbox organized
Gmail and most other email platforms allow you to create rules and filters to sort your inbox and prioritize your tasks.
For example, an email from your client will fall in the ‘Important’ category and an email regarding a team social event will fall under ‘Social’ category and so on. Simple but effective.
An organized inbox can help you sort, delegate, monitor and track tasks faster and easier.
On the other hand, if you have a chaotic inbox, chances are you may miss out on important emails because you overlooked it, or forget to reply etc.