I don’t know about you, but sometimes email feels like more burden than it’s worth. But the truth is, email is a valuable tool that has revolutionized the way that we work. When used correctly, email can be a time saver and productivity tool. But, for it to remain a tool of productivity and not a pain in the butt, it’s important to learn how to manage it better. Here are my eight top tops for doing just that:
1) Use Labels and Folders – Every email software comes with the ability to automatically put emails in to particular folders or add labels to them as they come through. It will greatly reduce your stress if things go into folders as they come in, so you can take one look and differentiate what is an emergency and what can wait until later.
2) Check Email Regularly – Don’t allow too much time to pass by before checking your email. You don’t want to be tied to your email but you don’t want thousands of emails piled up either. Check your email on a regular schedule, and then deal with each email accordingly. Shoot for having no more than 10 to 20 unread emails in your inbox at any given time. I shoot for three times per day, and set an egg timer for 20 minutes each time.
3) Respond Promptly – When someone has sent you something in your email such as paperwork, forms, important information or something, be sure to quickly hit reply and say “Thanks! Got it.” It’s that simple. You do not always have to respond about the item they sent immediately, instead you can download the item, put it in a dated file and/or tag it as a task to deal with later.
4) Read, Respond and File – Before there was email, there was snail mail. We all learned that the best way to check the mail was at our desks, near the file cabinet as well as the trash can. Nothing has really changed. When you check your email you should read, respond and/or file it away depending upon the email. You can even, in most email programs, turn an email into a scheduled task.
5) Reduce Incoming Emails – Turn off notifications from social media; unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read but that you did sign up for. You can use a service called Unroll.me to get it done fast. The service will return a list and you can then just choose which ones you want to keep and which ones you want to unsubscribe to. You add the things you want to see to your daily roll up, which enables you to view them when you want to, but not clutter up your email.
6) Create a Disposable or “Burner” Email Address – If you like to read a lot online, choose a free email address from Google or Yahoo for anyone who doesn’t require a business email address and for whom prompt reply will not be needed. You can always delete that email address and create a new one as needed. This can reduce what you receive in your work email exponentially.
7) Learn Your Software – A great example is the ability to “un-send” emails in Google email programs. Many people do not know this exists. You only have about 30 seconds to realize you should un-send it and click “undo send,” but it’s possible. If you use Google, make sure that you use this. If you use something else, find out whether or not you really know how to use your software to its fullest potential. If not, then you’ll want to train yourself on how to use all the features your email program offers.
8) Outsource – If you have a lot of customer service emails, don’t handle them yourself. It’s important to understand that since it’s your business, many of those customer service issues can take you a long time to deal with due to your emotional attachment to the issues. Instead, hire someone to take care of customer service. They will alert you to the most pressing issues that only you can deal with and handle the rest.
Getting control of your email will enable you to become more productive, organized, and more effective at doing your job or running your business. Trust me, you will feel more free and accomplished if your email is organized and not out of control.