An infographic I saw on Mashable by @BobAlGreene got me thinking about email. Work email, personal email, junk email… we sure do get a lot of email. More specifically we collectively receive 144.8 Billion emails every single day. How to make sense of it all?
While I tend to skim over email in my personal inbox, focusing in on key emails and zoning out of the others, I can’t afford to do the same with my business email. Actively managing email to make sure I don’t miss a new sale, client query or other important action item is key to my success at work.
That’s why I’ve developed a methodology that I swear by to help me manage emails proactively. Here are some of the things I regularly do to help me stay on top of email.
Delete email that does not require an action item
Do not let email linger. Once you’ve read an email, assessed what needs to be done and completed the required action, you need to delete the email. This is key to maintaining a lean inbox. Part of the stress of email is the sheer volume. If you’re able to reduce the amount of email in your inbox, it’s also easier to spot urgent requests and have an overall idea of what’s pending. I try to keep a dozen email at most in my inbox at any time.
Create folders to store email you want to keep for future reference
Deleting email is a good way to empty your inbox but you’re probably wondering what to do with all that email you will need for future reference (ex. digital receipts, appointment notifications, bank notices, etc). You need to store it of course- but not in your inbox. Most email applications allow you to create folders or archive mail. You can also create folders on your hard drive. A good filing system will give you the peace of mind that email can easily be retrieve when you need it. This way, you won’t feel guilty removing it from your inbox.
Unsubscribe from irrelevant newsletters
If you haven’t done this exercise before, sit down and make a list of all the newsletters you are subscribed to. Which do you actually take the time to read? Are there any that you flush automatically? Are there some that you never even subscribed to in the first place? If so, you need to unsubscribe. Invest the extra 30 seconds it takes to unsubscribe. It will help keep your inbox clean, make you feel less overwhelmed and save you the trouble of continuously having to delete them. You may be afraid of unsubscribing out of fear of “missing out”. But believe me, if you’re not reading it now, you won’t miss it.
Use whitelists/blacklists wisely
Every once and a while glance at your junk mail. Firewalls sometimes send desirable mail to the junk folder. If you notice this, make sure to whitelist the sender right away to avoid it happening in the future. Actually, you can be proactive and whitelist a contact before the fact if you know that person will be sending you a large volume of emails. Similarly, if you’re receiving unsolicited email, just blacklist the sender. There’s no need to put up with this type of junk flooding your inbox and deterring your efforts from important correspondence.
These tips may seem simple enough but they do require some discipline. However, in my experience, if you’re able to regain control of your inbox, you will feel less stressed at work, less irritable and get more work done.