Email Management: How Not to Be Held Hostage By Your Inbox
Email - it's one of the fastest professional, personal and secure ways of communicating with one another. So it's no surprise that some of us get flooded with new emails every single day. These can range everywhere from fluffy nonsense to career-breaking messages.
Naturally, it's easy to get lost in your inbox attempting to respond to every email as soon as it arrives. You will never get anything accomplished going about it this way. That's why you need to learn proper email management.
Email management refers to the overall strategy of receiving and responding to email as effectively as possible. There's more to it than simply reading and replying to email, but generally, that's what the phrase represents.
Learning how to manage emails the right way is kind of like building up
rhythm. Once you find out what works best for you, the rest becomes easy.
Table of Contents
Tip #1 - Schedule Time to Process Emails
The first mistake people make when attempting email management is to try clear their inbox out in one sweep. If you receive a high volume of messages daily, you will never be able to do this. Furthermore, you'll end up wasting valuable time that you could use to do other, more productive tasks.
What you want to do is to designate a specific amount of time out of each day to managing email. A good rule of thumb is to answer emails during downtime. That is, time where you aren't required to be productive, or during any other spare time that might creep up.
Try an hour or so at first, and then adjust it accordingly. The key is to go through as many emails as you can during that time period. Once its up, don't answer any more messages. It might be hard to pull yourself away, but you're going to have to exercise discipline in order for this to work.
Tip #2 - Upgrade to a Professional Email Program
If you're really serious about improving the way you handle email, than you may want to consider upgrading to a professional email program. The logic behind this is that you can reduce the amount of physical work needed by configuring an application to do it for you.
Most free email alternatives lack the power of commercial email programs. This includes advanced filters and the ability to automate answers for common questions. Not only will this help in keeping email management organized and accessible, it will also makes said task more hands-off. Imagine how much easier life would be if you didn't manually have to delete spam every time it shows up?
Some email programs to consider buying are Microsoft Outlook, Eudora, and Mozilla Thunderbird.
Tip #3 - Answer "Easy" Emails First
Another pitfall of improper email management is not answering the "easier" emails first. When I say "easy", I'm referring to emails that can be read through and responded to relatively quickly. It will seem natural to save these types of messages for later given their nature, but try to knock them out first. You will be able to process more emails this way.
If you do have a lot of important emails that require more work than simply reading and replying, skim through them first. That way, you will be thinking of how to respond while taking care of the less work-intensive ones.
Tip #4 - Send Emails That Provoke Responses
Email management also entails replying back to emails. And there's nothing worse then having a very important email ignored because it got lost in the clutter of someone's inbox. To encourage timely reactions to urgent messages, you need to send out email in a certain way.
For starters, be brief. People are more likely to respond to a message that doesn't take them all day to read. Get straight to the point and stay professional, and you have a higher chance of your email getting answered promptly.
In addition, make good use of each email's subject line. This is one of the first parts of a message that people see, so make sure it catches their attention. Again, being concise is a great way to work. Make the subject line say what the email is about, and if necessary, request a response.
Tip #5 - Stay Organized
Organization is vital to effective email management. The more email you receive, the easier it is for it to get "lost in the sauce". Sure, you could search your entire inbox for any and every message you need, but why not make it easy? Categorize your email, and the retrieval process will be hassle-free.
This can be done through the use of filters and folders. First, create the appropriate folders to store all the email you receive (i.e. Urgent Messages, New Customers, etc.) Now you can either manually sort your email, or you can program email filters to do it for you as they arrive. You will save yourself a lot of headache this way, even if it might not seem like it at first.
Learning how to manage email efficiently is a very useful skill. It can also be time consuming if done the wrong way. It's best to practice email management with a non-professional inbox first. Once you've built up an effective rhythm, you can try it out in the workplace.
- What is Email Management?
A definitive definition and explanation of what email management is.
- 7 Steps to Better Email Management @ MSNBC
It's easy to get overwhelmed by your in-box, but these simple strategies can help you keep it all under control.
- More Email Management Tips @ About.com
If you have more than a day's worth of emails in your Inbox, the "deal with every message the moment it arrives"-approach is not working for you. It's not your fault, but you can fix it. Even get rid of all your email backlog!
- Bill Gates Email Management Strategy @ ClearContext Corporate Blog
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates writes about the tools he uses on a daily basis in a Fortune magazine article. He outlines his strategy for managing email,