Unsurprisingly, email tends to be most workers’ biggest headache. Whether it’s a burning desire to document everything or senders just like the ease of email, we are inundated with messages at all hours of the day.
How do we manage the chaos?
Well, first, start thinking of your inbox as a tool, not the bane of your existence. There are a lot of functionalities built into email clients to make our lives easier – we just have to discover them or actually use them.
So, set some time aside today and let’s get organized!
Set up filters/categories/tags/rules to organize your inbox at a glance.
Most email users know about filters, categories, tags, and rules, but don’t use them or are using them manually. Properly using filters and rules can make magical things happen in your inbox like sorting emails by project or client or tagging specific messages as a low priority. Better yet, using categories and tags can visually organize everything so you know, at a glance, what is waiting for you.
For instruction setting up rules in Outlook, visit here.
For instructions setting up filters in Gmail, visit here.
When approaching your inbox, be prepared to handle the message right then using the 3 D’s guide:
DO | DELEGATE | DELETE
Delete: Move that message to trash and move on with your day. Deleting from the same source over and over again? Unsubscribe!
Delegate: Is the message not best answered by you? Pass the message along to the appropriate respondent and delete!
Do: Answer the darn message! Provide the attachment, schedule the meeting, do what you have to do to get it off your plate.
However, some emails need a little more effort. What do you do then?
Schedule time to work on emails that require more time/energy.
Guess what? If an email requires more time to craft a response, it is now a task. And the best way to handle tasks is to schedule time on your calendar to ensure you have properly set aside time to do the work. In most email clients (Outlook, Gmail), you can turn the email into a task or a calendar event straight from your inbox.
For instructions to turn an email into a calendar event in Outlook, visit here. Don’t want to invite anyone? No problem! Just click Cancel and it will turn into a regular calendar event.
For instructions to turn an email into a task in Gmail, visit here. Don’t forget to turn on your “Task” calendar (built into Google Cal).
Utilize good customer service and acknowledge receipt of emails.
Take it one step further and set expectations about when the sender can expect to hear back from you. For instance, if you received an email for a signature on a document, but you need more time to review, simply let the sender know you got it and have set aside time later that day to review and will respond then.
Keep folders to a minimum.
Don’t be an information hoarder. Only keep what you need and delete the rest. Most corporate systems limit your memory any way, so it’s best to get into the habit of being discerning about what you keep.
Use canned/draft email responses for commonly requested information.
This one is huge! If you send out the same information over and over again, keep a draft of your response to copy/paste later.
*HOWEVER* – I cannot stress this enough – do not become that person who sends canned responses without editing to ensure you’re answering the question the person actually asked or answering it completely. Drafts/canned responses are not intended to substitute good customer service. They are just a tool to make it easier.
We’ve briefly covered this but I want to reiterate. If you don’t read it, unsubscribe! If you’re on a distribution list you can’t get off, create a rule to tuck the unwanted messages into your trash or a folder for later reference when you’re bored.
And if all else fails, CRTL A + DEL and send a note that your computer glitched and you lost all all unread messages. I’M KIDDING! Don’t do that. No matter how much you want to.
Jen Lawrence is a productivity expert and coach specializing in aligning who you are with how you work to unleash your potential for success. With over fifteen years of administrative and project management experience, she helps entrepreneurs stop time and energy leaks through curated systems and solutions, so they can transition from the Chief of Everything to CEO. To learn more about her services, please visit jenlawrence.co/services.