If you’re like us, you have at least two or more email addresses. At work alone we receive at least 100 emails daily, most of which require a response very quickly. And that’s just work. Then there’s friends, family, author stuff, websites/blogs we follow, kids’ school and activities, and so forth. It becomes very easy to get buried in email in today’s digital world.
But there are ways to tame the beast! Here are our top 5 tips to keep your email manageable:
The only emails that should be in your inbox are those still requiring action. Which means you still need to read, reply, do something, or are waiting on someone else. Every other email should be moved to a folder or labels (filed) or deleted. For those of you with 100+ emails in your inbox, I’m talking to you. Make this a personal goal. Several of the next tips will help.
Respond to any emails that will take you 2 minutes or less as they come in. This habit gets that email off your plate and out of your inbox. According to efficiency-related research, doing shorter tasks firsts makes you a more efficient person. (BTW… If you don’t interrupt easily, save all the 2-minute emails and answer them in chunks all at once.)
15-Minute Daily Clean Up
At the end of your work day, or before you shut down your personal computer at night, take the last 15 minutes to clean out your email inbox. Finish off any remaining 2-minute items. File any emails that you’re finished with. Delete any junk mail. Send “I’ll get back to you by x date/time” responses for those items that you can’t finish.
Out-of-Office (OOO) Messages
The out-of-office messaging feature is not just for going on long vacations. If you have customers/clients who expect a fast response to their emails, set OOO messaging if you’ll be away from your computer for longer than 1 hour. Dentist/doctor appointments, late mornings, long meetings with no computer…use OOO messaging.
Filing & Foldering
Keep a very simple file/folder method. These days, search capabilities mean you don’t need the complicated folder systems of yore. For example, at work you might have one folder for each quarter. Every single filed email goes in that folder during that time period. At home try to limit yourself to 5-10 folders by topic (no more than 10). Use search to track down any filed emails when needed. By having very few folders to search, it makes it easier/faster to find them. It also makes it easier/faster to file them.
Now for the hard part. Take the time to go apply some of these methods. It might take you an hour to get your inbox reorganized if you have to redo your folder system. But once it’s complete, it’s so worth it. And if you can ingrain some of these habits, you’ll feel a lot less stressed because your inbox won’t be chaos!