I used to spend up to two hours a day wrestling with my email inbox until I realised I was spending more time reading and responding to messages than dealing with the tasks in hand.
If that sounds like a familiar story, I have a few secrets to share on how you can take back control of that pesky time-sink.
1. Set a time for managing emails
Email can be a dangerous productivity killer. When you eliminate the distraction of non-critical requests, wordy responses and countless newsletter subscriptions, it means you can dedicate more of your time to what’s important, your work.
Try allocating a set time of the day for processing your emails, and stick to it! Prioritise your responses and if you find you don’t complete processing all your emails in time, stop and wait until the next day.
However, I do not suggest removing your notifications or not checking your email regularly; sometimes you receive an urgent request that needs to be dealt with promptly!
2. Don’t dilly-dally on a response, your time is important
If you find yourself spending a large amount of time writing long emails, consider whether it would be best calling them instead.
I try to follow the one-minute rule when it comes to email; if I can’t reply to it within one minute, give the recipient a call instead. This method also makes it much more likely to get a response – emails can be ignored, a conversation cannot.
On a similar note, I have found great success in dealing with customers via video. The capability of smartphones means we are already equipped with cameras in our pockets and a video can be made in a matter of minutes. If your point requires visual help, think about sending a video instead.
3. Draw a line between emails and jobs
Find your inbox is slowly turning into a to-do list? Sometimes you receive emails asking you to deal with something, and they can slowly build up, especially if you aren’t using another tool to manage it.
You may want to consider a task management tool such as SwiftCase to create tasks directly from your emails. Draw a line under managing them directly in your inbox and delegate it!
4. Filters are your friend
Email filters are indeed a mailbox lifesaver, especially if you receive over 100 emails per working day.
Typically only around 20% of emails in your inbox are considered important; filters help you get to those messages quicker.
I currently have my email inbox filtered to ensure:
a. Key contacts are prioritised
b. Unwanted marketing materials are disposed of and unsubscribed
c. Emails I am CC’d into get moved to folders
d. Any automated responses from services I use get moved to folders
e. Invoices get moved to folders
Please don’t underestimate the usefulness of filters; they can provide you with a tidy inbox without lifting a finger.
5. Automate your reply, where possible
Frequent emails we receive include; to-dos, meeting enquiries, marketing material, unwanted requests and common questions.
Responding to these emails is a resource hog, and you’ll find you respond to most of these emails similarly every time. So, why not automate them?
Creating pre-populated templates with the information you need is an excellent solution for this, allowing you to
Convert these items into tasks and follow up with a templated response to let the recipient know it will be actioned.
Meeting requests can turn into an email chain very quickly, pulling your focus away during the back and forth. Try writing a template that confirms your availability at particular times. Alternatively, phone them instead to get an immediate response.
Marketing materials and unwanted requests:
Sometimes a response isn’t worth your time, but to stop the recipient from contacting again – why not automate a reply that tells them to remove you from their mailing list?
If you find yourself replying to the same query with the same answer over and over, consider templating a response. You can even get smart with this and potentially combine it with filters that automatically respond to an email using keywords or sentences!
These are the five secrets to successful email management, giving a streamlined, clutter-free inbox and ultimately, more time in the day to focus on what matters.