Do you dread opening your email? Do you hate sifting through spam? Does staying on top of your inbox seem like a job in itself? That is why today, I am going to show you tips on how you can stay on top of your inbox.
Only Keep Emails that Require Immediate Action in Your Inbox
Having zero emails in your inbox may be an ambitious goal, but by being ruthless about which messages get to take up residence in your inbox, you can get pretty close.
On most days, my email inbox has fewer than 20 messages in it. This is on purpose. I want to be able to open my inbox and immediately see what is the most urgent and requiring a response. This habit pushes me to take action on items in a timely manner.
Create a “Waiting Folder” for Action-Pending Emails
So, where do you put emails if not in your inbox? Well, you create a “waiting folder” for emails that require action from someone else before you can respond. This eliminates those emails from clogging up your inbox and it is a great place to remind you of what projects are still pending.
Make Subfolders or Labels your New Best Friend
Creating an easy-to-decode subfolder or label system for your emails allows you to group together important email chains. When you need to refer to that email you can easily find it! I have been doing this for years. By knowing where it is stored you can locate those emails quickly.
Set Inbox Rules or Filters
Many email providers allow you to set up inbox rules or filters that will take action for you and help you quickly categorize emails without tasking your brain. You can have rules set up that put emails into different folders, color code, and prioritize based upon a sender. That way at the end of the day, you can quickly scan for anything you may have missed.
Combine Inbox Emails with your Calendar
Sometimes an email requires more than a simple reply but requires a follow up action. For those emails designate a subfolder and put a reminder on your calendar that includes the folder location and the date when follow up is required.
Don’t be overwhelmed by Junk Mail in Your Inbox
Try using the three-stick rule for promotional emails and newsletters. The third time you delete a newsletter or promo email from a specific sender, unsubscribe from the list. You can also setup rules for these emails to automatically go to a junk folder.
Create templates for your Go-To Responses
Try crafting some stock responses for emails requesting the same information. You can keep these responses in your drafts folder and just copy and paste them into your response to the requester. You can tweak the emails if need before you send them, but this alone can save you a huge amount of time.
Set Aside Time Blocks for Checking Inbox Emails and Stick to Them.
Let’s face the fact that you don’t leave open time on your schedule for unspecified times or lengths around the clock, so why give email free rein to intrude on your day?
Set specific times during the day to go through each email and thoughtfully respond, archive or save for later. This way you can get through all your emails more quickly because you are actually focused on the task at hand. I suggest that you start with three different half-hour blocks a day to read through and respond to their emails and keep your inbox closed the rest of the day. Feel free to adjust the schedule to fit your workstyle.
I also suggest that you set aside time once per week for inbox maintenance. Remember to protect the time as you would for any other important meeting. Delete the irrelevant, archive the complete and prioritize your to-do list. I generally do this on Fridays so that I can start the week with a clean slate.
Turn Off Email Notifications
If you have been following me for a while you will know that I am a big proponent of turning off Email Notifications. This is a necessary step when you are moving to pre-designated blocks of time to check your emails. Those email notifications can distract you from doing what you are currently work on at your desk. I never realized how annoying those notifications were until I was working on a short turnaround project. Those notifications drove me crazy!!!
During Your Downtime check out your email
Make sure that your email accounts are synced to your phone so that you can use idle moments to do quick inbox clean-up. After all lots of messages don’t require direct action. Spam can be deleted; other emails can be filed, and you can deal with plenty of these while you are waiting. Examples of idle time is waiting in line at the supermarket, or even waiting for a meeting to start.
By following the above techniques should help you reach zero messages in your inbox. Once you get your inbox under control the easier it will be to manage and take less time to do so. Let me know you tips that you use to keep your inbox under control.
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