Does your email inbox contain every email you have ever received? Do you struggle with email volume and despair of finding a really effective strategy for managing your ever-growing Inbox?
Have you started a system of folders to manage your Inbox and then given up in frustration because you can’t remember which file you put things into? Can you actually find what you are looking for within 30 seconds of starting a search? Or do you spend hours combing through your Inbox looking for that email you were sure you had the other day?
If these scenarios resonate with you then these simple tips will help you to get your Inbox under control and keep it that way.
Unsubscribe from things you never read. All emails should have an unsubscribe button on them.
Move the things that are informative, and you think you might want to read later, to a separate folder. You can do this automatically in both Outlook and Gmail by setting up rules for things like company notices and reports from your analytics software. You can then review the folder you send it to once a week and move anything you want to keep to the correct permanent folder.
Create folders that make sense to you and when your work has been completed on that email, file it in the correct folder right away. It honestly does save time if you put things where they belong in the first place.
Have an “Action” folder into which you put all the items you need to deal with. You can then go to that one folder once a day and deal with it all at once, moving the completed emails to their final location in your folder system. You do have to be very disciplined about getting into the habit of checking the folder daily as it can have an element of “out of sight, out of mind” about it.
Only review your email inbox at set times during the day. Three times a day is absolutely fine. If something is “hair on fire urgent”, the client will ring you up.
Use the Getting Things Done approach to guide your initial review. If the email will take you less than 2 minutes to read and action, just do it there and then. If it needs a more considered response, flag it or colour code it and deal with it at the time you have set aside for this task every day. If the email opens up some sort of can of worms or needs a really detailed response, and will be time-consuming to deal with, perhaps taking 20 minutes or more, I usually add the task to my To Do list so that it becomes a task of its own.
Colour coding and stars are not just for the classroom. You can colour code emails in both Outlook and Gmail to show the priority you have allocated to them during your initial review. This allows you to deal with emails quickly and in the right order of priority when you do sit down to tackle them.
Using an agreed colour coding system is also a great way to work collaboratively with a shared inbox so that two people don’t end up answering the same email.
I like to do a bit of work on my emails after lunch if it fits with my schedule. Most people have a dip in energy levels after lunch so a spot of routine email answering is a great use of that time.
If you get distracted by those notifications that ping up every time an email comes in, and you find you can’t ignore them, you can disable the notifications entirely or choose settings that work for you.
If you have tried these tips and are still struggling, why not outsource your Inbox management? Whether you need support with routine emails, assistance with streamlining your systems, or a full-scale intervention to bring calm to a chaotic Inbox, there is help at hand.
To access advice and support, and regain control of your wayward Inbox, get in touch for a free consultation.