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 deal with hundreds of emails every day, email management can be more of a distraction than help.
This is a guest post by Niraj Ranjan Rout, the founder of Hiver.
A typical business user sends and receives over 600 emails per week – that is a lot! Lately, I have come across many articles and statements that email is the most monstrous, inefficient tool that we ever laid our hands on. The truth is – email is not inefficient, we use it inefficiently. On that note, here are some tips to handle your emails better.
1. Get to know your email platform thoroughly
True, you might have been using your Gmail or Outlook account for several 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 your job of handling and replying to emails way easier.
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, thereby wasting time and affecting your accuracy even.
You may think that it is efficient to keep checking emails every 15 minutes so as to not let them back up, but this can divide 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 again during tea time 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
I 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 – they are spam. If you let yourself disturbed by every promotional email you get, how will get any task done?
4. Declutter the inbox every day
Decluttering your inbox once every month or fortnight 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 anymore, 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 them sorted
Another important tip which helps you manage your inbox and by extension your time more efficiently is keeping your inbox sorted.
Gmail and most other mailing 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 lunch will fall under ‘Social’ category.
You can create labels ‘Important’ and ‘Social’ and set a rule so that any mail from the client will fall under the ‘Important’ label and so on. This way your emails will land in the appropriate folder and you can handle the urgent and important ones now and make time for the other emails later.
An organized inbox can help you sort, delegate, monitor and track tasks faster and easier. Plus, creating labels, folders, and filters is a one-time effort and after that everything is an automated process.
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.
Here are some additional tips:
- New York consulting firm Basex reported that spam within the enterprise can cost between $600 and $1,000 per year for every user. This includes the time loss in productivity. I strongly suggest you invest in a spam-blocking tool and save a lot of otherwise wasted time.
- Of course, you have to proofread all your emails before you hit send; a more time-saving option would be to use grammar check and spell check tools to make your job easier.
- Keep your personal emails away from your office email inbox; it can only cause an unnecessary distraction during work hours.
Email has become the primary communication tool for businesses now. We use it to book appointments, send good wishes, arrange meetings, delegate tasks, monitor activities etc.
With it playing such an important role in our work and personal lives, it becomes highly essential to learn to manage email better.