Email has become an integral part of our day to day lives, both personally and in business. However, most of us are now inundated by the non-stop emails that fill our inboxes. As it does not appear as though email is going anywhere, we think it is important to review ways to make your email inbox more manageable. This is the first of a two part series on how to manage your email more effectively. In this first section we will focus on general strategies for managing your email accounts and in Part 2 we will review some of the tools available that can help manage and organize your email.
Below are some simple tips and tricks to follow. You don’t have to use all of them but incorporating any or all into your daily email life should help you better manage your inbox.
- Should you be using email at all? Email is great! It’s quick, you don’t have to leave your desk and it’s not necessary for the other person to be at theirs. However, it is important to think about whether email is the most effective means of communication in each situation. Are you discussing a personal, difficult or sensitive subject or would it be easier for you to have the discussion in person or by phone? By considering whether an email is time-effective or an appropriate means of communication, you can probably cut back on the number of messages. (See these links for more details on why not to use email: 7 Easy Ways to Reduce Email Overload & 10 Ways to Make Email Better.)
- Write your email effectively. We all know how frustrating it is to feel like no one is reading or understanding what the main message we're communicating is. Make it easier for your recipients to know what your main points are by using bold fonts, bullet points and colours to emphasize the information you want them to see!
- I can’t write an email in just 3 sentences! Ryan Holmes, the CEO of Hootsuite, expands on Guy Kawasaki’s five sentences philosophy and shortens it to three. His reasoning: it keeps out the “fluff” and ensures that you include only essential information in your email. What if three sentences are not enough? Holmes recommends you talk to the person directly.
- Use templates and canned responses to save time. This may sound a little strange because many of us tend to think of each email we receive as unique. However, many are about the same topics and questions and require similar replies. By creating templates that reflect your needs and best practices you can save time when replying and still modify if need be. Gmail even offers a “Canned Responses” feature that allows you to use your templates with even less fuss.
- Anticipate the types of questions your email will generate. By thinking about how the recipient will interpret your message and what questions they will have you can prevent numerous emails by trying to answer the probable questions in the first message.
Other potential ways to make your inbox more manageable are:
- Utilizing your filters to their full potential to reduce the clutter in your inbox
- Unsubscribing from lists thereby reducing the volume of emails received
- Turning off your notifications to reduce unnecessary distractions
What are your strategies for managing your email? Do you have any tips or tricks you'd like to share with us?
Buckner Chowdhry, A. (2010, July 20). 7 Easy Ways to Reduce Email Overload. Inc. Magazine.
DesMarais, C. (2013, April 17). 10 Ways to Make Email Better. Inc. Magazine.
Kaplan, S. (2013, March 21). Declutter Your Inbox in 5 Easy Steps. Forbes Magazine.
Holmes, R. (2013, July 15). 5 Hacks to Combat Email Overload. Hootsource (Hootsuite Blog).