Too many emails? Here’s how to manage them

All right, maybe we are all inundated with emails but it mightn’t need to be, as Mark Brownlow explains. Certainly, if we work in the communition industry or play a managerial role, emails are our daily bread, even outside office hours.

Inboxes filled up with hundreds of messages are not so uncommon. So, what’s the best way to manage the flow of such volume?

One possible answer is email triage: literally, the technique of sorting and reordering messages according to some type of criteria, so as to maximize response time and quality.

One of the easiest ways to sort out the mails is to create a folder with subtitles. The main key is the title of the folder. If you categorize all the mails and set up in the mail box, all business related emails will automatically fall in those sub folders. So that main box will have limited mails where they cannot be categorized and the rest will be falling in the respective folders. All these mails will be in unread until these are opened. So business mails should be clearer in the subject. Maybe different ways are there, but I thought about this.

Years ago Keith Robinson produced a series of tips on Life Hacker that still apply today. Summarized down, here are the steps to go from a chaotic inbox to a perfectly organized one:

  1. Carefully clean out your inbox. Once and for all, dedicate all the time you have to your e-mail. Respond to everyone who’s still waiting, delete old and useless messages, archive all those attachments , in short, do everything possible to reach a zero complexity level. Probably – alas – it is best to sacrifice one of your Saturdays, so as not to get too many incoming emails.
  2. Create subfolders. A fundamental technique when it comes to sorting. There is no better way to separate and group all your various messages than to sort them under new categories, and you’ll definitely need to repeat it until you find the best ordering system. Robinson suggests setting up two macro-folders: one for really urgent emails, and the other for those less urgent ones, organizing them according to some specific criteria. It really depends on the type of business you’ve got. A customer service agent will undoubtedly have different categories than those of a top manager… Always think in practical terms.
  3. Establish a process and stick with it carefully. At this point, the real trick is to quickly sort out your incoming emails, and then dedicate every now and then some time to responding to those messages within the “urgent” macro-folder.
  4. Don’t check your email every minute. Of course, it isn’t easy – and smartphones don’t help to reduce the consultation anxiety either. But try to set some rules.

Alongside this process, there are a few other tips to bear in mind.

For example, John Halamka put together 10 other rules to tackle the chaos that his inbox – with about 600 emails per day – possed. It’s worth taking a look at the most important ones:

– All incoming e-mails marked as important by the sender must pass a rigorous test. Does the sender often use this techniche? Are his/her emails really important? Don’t let yourself be frightend by a tiny exclamation point…

– Establish strict prioritization based on your relationships: messages from the boss, people your familiar with and important customers should always take precedence. The same method could also be applied to the subject line – of course, hopefully it isn’t misleading.

– If you are the only recipient, you should respond as soon as possible. If however you are placed in the BCC list, then perhaps dealing with this email coud wait.

We’d also like to add one of our own, to all these great tips: fight the bacon, or any form of “legal spam” you are used to.

Are all the RSS feeds you’ve subscribed to really indispensable? Do you really need to receive all those newsletters, even the sites you never check? Take a second to make a quick self-critic: spend half a morning doing some opting-out. You’ll immediately see your inbox benefit from it.

 

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