We’ve all heard of the people who have thousands of unread emails in their Outlook in-boxes (maybe you’re one of them!) Reading and responding to email today isn’t something that keeps you from getting your work done – it IS part of the work you need to get done! But getting this done efficiently and effectively can be another matter, especially for those of you who get lots of emails every day. Not only will some of the ideas below save you time, keep you better organized and make you more responsive, but they will help cut down on the stress you feel when you face your full email in-box every day!
The following suggestions have been compiled from a variety of reputable sources, but bear in mind that not every “tip” will work for every individual. If you sometimes feel overwhelmed by your email inbox and want to simplify and streamline your life, start putting some of these ideas into practice.
1. Separate your work and personal email. Have at least two email addresses: one corporate, one personal, and maybe another one you just use for shopping. Segregating the emails generated from on-line stores and discount websites will immediately reduce your overall clutter, which often prevents you from seeing more important messages.
2. Be ruthless about Unsubscribing. Cut down on spam, advertising and other promotional emails. If you hate to miss a sale, or want to read something later, see item #4 below. And, if the email really is “Junk,” right click on the message, mark it as “Junk” and block the sender.
3. Don’t be afraid to hit “Delete.” If you don’t need to respond, and don’t need to refer to it again, get rid of it. If you have a big backlog of emails in your inbox, sort them by sender and then delete them in batches. You’ll immediately feel better!
4. Set up a simple folder system that makes sense to you. If it takes too long to move and file an email, you probably won’t do it. Set up folders like “Waiting,” “To Read,” “Respond by Wednesday [etc]” or “Archive.” With search features, it’s easier to search within larger categories to find items quickly.
5. Sort through your emails – think triage. If you can respond quickly (say within 2 minutes or so) do so, and put others into folders for action or archiving or delete them. Over time, this will become second nature.
6. Don’t feel as though you need to respond to every email immediately. Set aside several times throughout the day to go through your email inbox rather than watching it constantly. Turn off the annoying alerts and noises that announce the arrival of new mail – this simply becomes a constant interruption and a source of additional stress. No one system works for everyone, but aim for reviewing emails every few hours, not every few minutes.
7. Aim to respond to every email [that requires a response] within a reasonable time period—24 hours is ideal, but generally no longer than 48 hours after receipt. Otherwise, your co-workers, clients and suppliers may think you are unresponsive and / or unprofessional. Don’t respond to emails that don’t require a response: saying “thanks” just creates a new email someone will need to delete or archive!
8. Practice helpful email messaging tips when you write and send your own emails: use headlines that include project names or searchable terms; keep your messages short and to the point; and don’t use too many “cc’s.” And PLEASE—don’t overuse the exclamation point.
The last suggestion to reduce your stress and improve your peace of mind—unplug or ignore your work email when you’re at home or after a
certain time of night!