How to handle your email management efficiently
Email Writing Rules:
Send less email. As obvious as it sounds sending fewer emails naturally reduces the amount you receive. Always ask yourself what would be the result of sending an email, is there a more effective way to communicate on a subject or do you need to even say anything at all?
Email Reading Rules:
If you can read and respond to an email in roughly the same time as it takes to flag it for later then deal with it straight away. For emails that take longer to read and/or respond to, add them to your ‘to-do’ list, put some time in the diary to action them or use your email program’s highlighting or reminder systems to mark it for later. If you are copied in, it’s likely that you were only sent it for information so why not file it in a sub folder, and read it when you have time.
Good Email Habits:
Try and encourage people to only send emails when confirming a previous meeting or conversation, circulating information or if phoning wouldn’t be appropriate. Similarly if you’re sending an email longer than a couple of paragraphs ask yourself if it would be quicker to make a call.
Develop a Routine:
Whilst checking email regularly can keep your inbox at a manageable level, the constant interruption can significantly disrupt your concentration and lower productivity. Instead check emails only at specific times, e.g. 8.30 am, lunchtime, 4 pm (ensure you leave time to respond to anything urgent). If you’re concerned about the delayed response, create an auto response to make people aware that you only check email at certain times and to call if anything is really urgent.
Filing and organisation:
Create specific folders for emails to make searching for them later much easier. These could be as simple as ‘To-Do’, ‘For information’ and ‘Archive’ or even a set of folders relating to each project you are working on. It’s also worth considering assigning colour categories for more detailed filing. For example Outlook allows notes, contacts and appointments to all use the same colour categories to help identify and sort on a particular subject.
Automatic email management tools:
Most email programs allow you to create rules which automatically sort emails into particular folders. For example, you may get several emails a day from a social media platform notifying you of relevant posts. You want to see these but you don’t want them to clutter your Inbox. Create a rule that moves emails from the social media domain name to a folder called ‘Social Media’ as soon as they arrive. This not only keeps them all together but frees you from filing them manually. The same could apply to emails about blogs, newsletters or article feeds.