Email overload and busy schedules lead to unread messages, forgotten appointments and missed opportunities. In an age of information overload, what can you do to manage your inbox and your sanity? Here are a few tips:
1. Don’t treat your inbox as a to-do list
You’re bound for failure if you treat your email inbox as a to do list. It is just not set up to be effective at this task, and soon enough you are going to blankly stare at a screen full of stars in different colors and half completed drafts. If an email requires follow-up, add the task to your to do list. Whether that’s a physical list on your desk or an app. If you are using an app, check if you can add a link to the original message to make it easier to reply later – if necessary. I only found out recently that this works in GMail, and it’s awesome!
Once you’ve done that, archive the email to get it out of your sight and keep your inbox clean. An effective to-do app I like using is Wunderlist.
2. One tool to rule them all
Choose one email application across all your devices. Not because there is only one good one out there, but rather because more often than not syncing fails.
3. Template responses
If you are constantly writing the same thing over and over again (and we all do it, even if it is just the greeting at the end of the message!), then create a template response for standard emails. Things as simple as “it was nice to hear from you, thank you for your message”, should be something you type once and never again. This saves time, and time is a valuable resource.
4. Pick up the phone
It can take three or four messages to accomplish what a five minute phone call might do. If something is easily resolved with a call, pick up the phone. People these days don’t call each other anymore, or even walk up or down a floor to see a colleague in person. The personal touch is also valuable as you grow personal and professional relationships. And, that email can go straight to archive now!
5. Kill the newsletters
Seemed like such a good idea to subscribe to everyone’s newsletter and get all those 10% off coupons… right? Well, not so much if you wake up to an inbox full of marketing messages. Pick out what you really care about, or which you really read and ditch the rest. Everyone is vying for our attention, and clever marketing departments are making their newsletters interesting enough to keep clicking on. For those that don’t really pass the test, hit the unsubscribe button and stop wasting time deleting them every time they fill your inbox.
6. Open and deal, or don’t open at all
Once you open an email resist the urge to mark it with a star thinking you will come back to it later. Chances are you won’t, and likely because you forget to. Which means a missed opportunity or deadline. Once you open the email, deal with it. Either by responding or by creating an action item in your to do list for the task you have to complete.