Over the holidays, I decided to take some time off to recharge the batteries, but when I came back on-line, my email inbox had hundreds of emails I had to go through. I started to feel as I worked my way through my inbox I hadn’t even had a vacation because I had to put in extra time to catch up. Sound familiar?
So it got me thinking about how much time do we spend managing emails each day? Is it an hour? Maybe 30 minutes? More like a few hours or even more time that?
Email is there to help with communications if that is to discuss projects, close a deal or something else, but I bet it becomes a counter-productive because we end doing one of these:
You find yourself checking your email every 10 minutes?
You spend so much time looking for old emails?
You end up making your emails your first priority instead of getting other tasks done?
Do you feel there are days where you speed more time working on emails than actually getting any other work done?
Below are eleven tips that are going to help you master the skills to better email management and become more productive:
1. Process Your email Once to Twice a Day
Look to set aside one to two-time slots to process your emails daily. If you’re unable to complete all your emails in the allotted time slot, then continue those the next day. Look a prioritizing the important ones and letting go of the others (see #2).
Just remember email is a tool to help you do your work, but it is not the work itself.
2. Prioritize: 80/20 Rule
We all know that not all emails are the same. So I love utilizing the 80/20 rule when it comes to email. What I am saying is that 20% of your emails are your high-value emails which will lead to the highest return.
For me, my 20% emails would be business leads, speaking opportunities, networking opportunities, and anything that gets me to my 20% business goal. Also included in the 20% are the people who are clients and close mentors and business friends. Everything else will go into the 80% bucket.
For the 20% emails, you need to define a priority. In my case, I look to try to reply to them immediately (see #9) otherwise, I look at 1-3 days response time.
For 80% emails, these I will lake longer in replying and certain cases not even responding (see #4).
3. Respond by “xx Number of days” Folder
A new process I am implementing after reading about it is filing any email that needs a reply in an “xx Number of days” folder. You’re not limited to one day of the week, you could have one for each day or maybe it’s Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This will allow you not to be pressured into responding immediately when you receive the email. The other benefit of this it gives you time to think over time what your response is going to be.
4. You Don’t Have to Respond to All Emails
I think we all get sucked into this thinking that we have to respond to all emails that we receive. Have you ever thought that not replying after a certain period can be seen as a reply in its own way?
Have you noticed that not all your emails are responded too? Exactly.
So only respond if there are benefits in responding. If not, don’t worry about it.
5. Build Templates
I bet if you were to sift through your sent folder, you would find emails that look similar. Look to create templates that you can reuse and tailor for your replies to save time. This concept has saved me time not on with emails but across other areas liked LinkedIn responses.
6. Read Only the Relevant Emails
If you’re like me, you probably have subscribed to multiple blogs, newsletters, and business communications. You don’t have to read all those emails they send, but instead of deleting them look to automatically file them in to folders to read them when you have the appropriate time. I personally have created multiple folders where I file these emails and when I am either on a plane or looking to do some reading, I will browse those folders for content.
7. Categories for Emails
Folders are your best friend when it comes to helping you stay organized with your emails.
Use a naming convention that is relevant to what the emails are about and also your priorities. I also like to use favorites in outlook and hierarchy structure on the importance of the emails.
8. Use Rules
Rules (Outlook) allow you to sort your emails automatically into the folders (categories #7) you have created once the email has been received. This will minimize the amount of administrative actions you will need to do.
9. 1-Minute Replying Rule
If an email takes no more than a 1-minute to reply, then reply immediately. Don’t procrastinate about sending it and let it sit in your inbox for ages.
10. Limit the Time You Spend in Your Inbox
Apart from the 1-minute rule, look at setting yourself an overall time you spend in your inbox. When you are next checking your emails time yourself to see how long you take to process and sort through your emails. Then ask the hard question of how much of that time was beneficial. Probably a lot of the time wasn’t.
Bottom line you want to get in and out of your inbox as quickly as possible so you can have more time to do the things that are worthwhile.
11. Unsubscribe From Things You Don’t Read
If you are receiving newsletters and feeds and have no interest, especially when you’re deleting them without reading them anymore, unsubscribe from them.
Still, have emails in your inbox that are over a month old? Archive them as they are past there due date, as the likelihood you’re going to respond to them is very low.
Let me know if you have any excellent email management tips that help you be more productive by sending me an email at email@example.com