Do you often feel overwhelmed by emails? An inbox overflowing with old, unopened or unwanted messages can be both frustrating and stressful. While having a completely empty inbox is unrealistic, there are things we can all do to keep our inboxes organised, so here are my tops tips for keeping on top of unruly emails.
Creating folders will enable you to organise your emails as and when they arrive. There is no one size fits all solution to creating folders, so you will need to use your own judgement but could consider having client folders, employee folders, project folders or dated folders, a folder for emails needing action or waiting for a response and for reference material or resources.
Reading your email
If an email takes less than two minutes to read and reply to, deal with it immediately, even if it is not a high priority. When you begin to read the email, don’t move on until you have done the following.
If you receive an email asking you to confirm or acknowledge something, respond to the email and ask for clarification if you are unsure about the content.
- File it
If no action is required but you think you might need to refer back to the email then file it in the relevant folder.
- Forward it
If the email needs to be seen by someone else or you have received the email in error, forward it.
- Make it a task or diarise it
If the email is something that will need some time to complete add it to your task list or calendar.
- Delete it
If the email is something you are certain you will no longer need, delete it.
For emails that will take longer than two minutes to read or respond to, always create a task or schedule time in your calendar to deal with the email at a later date, highlighting, flagging or starring messages that need a response. An email about a meeting or appointment should be moved to your calendar.
Checking your emails
Emails need to be checked every day if they are not to get out of hand but that does not mean you need to monitor your emails at all times. Instead consider checking at specific times of day, say first thing in the morning, before lunch and at the end of the day, turning off any alerts, so you are not distracted by incoming messages. Let your colleagues know you don’t check your emails constantly or consider blocking out time in your calendar and setting your availability to ‘busy’, using your judgement about what would be most beneficial for you or your business. It is also well worth setting time aside once a week and sticking to it, as you would with a meeting, for regular inbox maintenance.
Emails for information
When you receive emails marked ‘for information’ or your name is in the ‘CC’ field instead of the ‘To’ field, chances are that email can be dealt with at a later date, however, if you are unsure about whether you need to take action, send a quick reply asking for clarification.
If you receive a large number of promotional emails, consider re-routing these to another email address, or use rules to sort the emails into folders automatically, to enable you to look at the emails at a time that works for you. Drowning in promotional emails that you delete without reading? Don’t be afraid to hit the unsubscribe button. If you are regularly deleting emails from the same sender, consider using the three strike rule — the third time you delete an email, unsubscribe too.
Shared inboxes add another level of complexity to managing emails, so it is crucial that everyone working in a shared inbox has an agreed method of working, meaning all emails are dealt with in the same way and people can easily deal with emails if team members are away. Communication is key, so as well as having an agreed folder structure, try editing the email subject line, to show the initials of the person taking responsibility for the email or to record progress for example ‘TLA will contact customer on 5 October 2022.’
Writing emails to others
When writing emails, you can make a huge difference for yourself, colleagues and clients by including next steps, owners, deadlines, expectations and objectives. So, instead of writing ‘Could you have a look at this’ be specific, writing something along the lines of ‘Please review and send any feedback or questions you have by close of play Friday.’ Succinct communication means everyone knows what needs to be done, by who and when, saving your time and theirs. If you find yourself sending the same email responses over and over, consider creating stock responses that can be tweaked and re-used.
Create an ‘old inbox’ folder
Still feeling overwhelmed? Move your old emails out of your inbox and into folder titled ‘old inbox’ or ‘archive’ so you can start afresh. You will not have lost your emails and will be able to search for them if necessary but you will now be able to see the wood for the trees.
Maintaining your new inbox
When you have tidied your inbox it is vital to follow the steps above so that your hard work does not go to waste. This does not mean you will answer every single message every day but you will regularly review your emails, place them in folders, transfer information to a task list or calendar and unsubscribe from emails that aren’t relevant.
Still not keen on managing your emails? I can help with managing email and social media inboxes — deleting junk, archiving messages, creating folders, responding to messages. Get in touch to learn more.
© Humblebee Secretarial and Administration Support. All Rights Reserved.