You can manage emails by simply organizing your inbox, keeping it clutter-free, and ensuring that you read and respond to your emails promptly. This way, you spend less time sifting through spam and old emails and focus more on other attention-demanding aspects of your business operations. To further boost productivity, you can also choose to utilize email management software and go beyond folders, labels and tags.
How do you manage your email inbox? If you are constantly reading and responding to your messages throughout the day and still feel overwhelmed, then, maybe you are experiencing email overload. Professionals spend an average of 3.1 hours a day to check emails, according to the 2018 Consumer Email Survey. Given that you have an 8-hour work day, this means you use more than a quarter of your productive time on reading and responding to emails alone. Oftentimes, this is due to having disorganized inboxes and inefficient email management.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways for you to optimize your email usage. This could be as simple as keeping your inbox spam-free and immediately replying to new messages to something more complicated such as categorizing your mail and using email management solutions to simplify your efforts.
To help you get started, we have created a guide that summarizes the steps you can take towards email productivity. From sorting your mail to finding a software that will help you manage your inbox, we will be discussing everything in detail for you so that you can maximize your work hours further.
Email is deeply ingrained in the lives of professionals from all industries. In a study by the Radicati Group, results showed that the number of emails sent and received per day reached a whopping 269 billion in 2017 and that by the end of 2021, this number is expected to reach 319.6 billion.
Even with the emergence of other communication options such as social media, instant messaging, and video conferencing, email still remains the most preferred channel among professionals. In fact, email has the same 31% preference rating as face-to-face conversations with work colleagues, as seen in the 2018 Consumer Email Survey by Adobe.
These statistics only goes to show how much professionals have embraced emailing for work purposes. However, this does not mean that it is a fool-proof program. For instance, if you don’t manage your messages properly, emails might take over your day-to-day routine instead of serving as a tool to help you be more productive.
This can be seen among many business leaders and workers. Aside from checking their emails during their work. 85% of professionals browse their inbox before they arrive at the office. Meanwhile, 25% log in as soon as they get out of bed and it doesn’t stop there. More often than not, they would still sift through their inbox while watching TV (60%), using the bathroom (40%), having a conversation on the phone (35%), exercising (16%), and while driving (14%).
So, why do we spend so much time on our email? One potential answer to that would be email overload. There are simply too many inbound messages ranging from work-related mail to newsletters and they pile up faster than we can tend to them. If you’re constantly asking yourself “how do I manage emails effectively?” or “how do I organize my inbox?”, there’s a good chance that you are experiencing this problem too.
In order to keep this insanity at bay, you should consider implementing a few rules when it comes to managing your emails This means controlling your incoming emails, removing messages you don’t need, as well as ensuring that you are organizing your mail properly. It would also be advisable to invest in an email management platform. By applying these steps, you can streamline your workflow and accomplish more work without giving up too much of your free time.
Clutter can put a damper on your productivity. In fact, recent studies show that messy homes and disorderly work environments are directly linked to procrastination, stress, and even life dissatisfaction. The same could be said about having a disorganized inbox.
More often than not, the reason why professionals take a lot of time tending to emails is that they are overwhelmed with the amount of unread mail, spam, and other messages in there. So, the question now is, how do you manage email overload? The simplest answer to that is to remove the clutter in your inbox.
Purge what you don’t need—an announcement for a corporate fundraiser from two years ago? Toss it. An invoice that has been copied into your company’s cloud storage? Delete the duplicate in your inbox. A good rule of thumb here is to delete messages if:
In case you encounter certain messages that you aren’t sure whether you can remove yet, you can choose to archive them instead. This could include emails on existing agreements, messages that you’ll need a paper trail of or references that can still be of use to you in the future.
You can also do this process to your mailing list so that there are fewer chances that you are sending messages to wrong email addresses. A good start would be deleting invalid email addresses, bouncing email addresses, and duplicate email addresses.
Now, remember, email is for long-tail messaging. So, if you’re using email to coordinate projects or events, you’ll surely be swamped with clutter. You’re better off using project management software or at least online collaboration tools when you need real-time updates.
Now that you’ve cleaned your inbox, it’s time we focus on keeping it that way. After all, you’ve probably put in a lot of effort into thinking about which messages to keep and which ones to remove, so let’s make sure that you don’t have to go through the process again any time soon.
The first step here is to unsubscribe from any promotional emails and newsletters. Chances are, you’ve accumulated plenty of these over the years as many companies offer to send you these when you purchase their product or use their services. At the time of the transaction, you probably thought it won’t hurt to get occasional email updates from your favorite brands. However, as time passes, this can become a nightmare to deal with especially if they are starting to bury more important emails in your inbox.
Another thing that you should keep out of your inbox is spam or junk email. Unfortunately, you can’t really control this the way you can with promotional emails. However, you can report these and block any email addresses that relayed the message to you. This way, you can ensure that you won’t receive the same junk mail from the same senders again.
Last but not least, it is essential that you stop following group emails that don’t apply to you or are not relevant anymore. Be it threads on projects that you are no longer a part of or group conversations that don’t have anything to do with work, these will only eat up storage space and productive time so it’s best to do away with them.
If you’re concerned about whether they might still contact you on the thread, don’t worry. Most email services will allow you to stay as part of the group but instead of getting notified every time there’s a reply, you will only get an email when you are mentioned in the message. By the way, you can also apply this tip for group chats if you’re using a live chat app.
One of the most inefficient strategies in email management is probably keeping all of your messages clumped up together. This will not only confuse you as to which messages are for what purposes, but it also makes it painstakingly difficult to track down emails when you need them later on. To simplify your inbox, you should organize your incoming messages using folders or, in the case of Gmail, labels.
For instance, you can create folders based on how fast you should respond to the messages (i.e. Today, This Week, This Month). If you are particularly concerned about making sure that you are meeting project timelines, you can create categories for your To-Dos, Follow-Ups, as well as FYIs. In the case of managers, you might want to consider having different folders for the different groups you are handling.
The bottom line here is that you should create categories according to your workflow. But, as a general rule, you should keep it simple. You’ve already minimized the messages you are receiving so why would you overwhelm yourself with too many categories to choose from. Just remember, less is more.
Since time immemorial, one of the email management strategies you probably hear a lot is to check your email regularly. This prevents things from piling up in your inbox and allows you to stay up-to-date on your latest messages.
One thing to keep in mind here, however, is that checking your email regularly does not equate to logging in after every two hours or so. This habit can actually do more harm to your productivity as it keeps you from focusing on more important tasks on your plate.
The best strategy for this is to create a schedule for when you should take a look at your messages. Ideally, you should only log in to your account once, twice, or thrice a day and spend no longer than 15 minutes for each time you check. This should be enough time to read messages and respond to them.
In addition, you should also develop a “clean as you go” attitude when managing your email. You can do this by allotting a few minutes each week to check if any emails need to be deleted or archived.
Putting off responding to emails for a few hours may seem like it’s not a big deal until you realize that you have waited days to send your reply. To prevent these instances from happening again, it is best to remember that this habit of procrastination not only contributes to the pile-up in your inbox; it also puts business relationships at risk and projects on hold—two problems that can cost you a lot of money.
According to MarketWatch, 52% of people expect to get an answer to work mails within 12 to 24 hours. If you wait any longer, senders automatically assume that you either did not get their message or that you are ignoring their email. This is why it’s safe to say that you should never sit on emails for longer than one workday.
After all, replying to emails doesn’t really take up that much time. Unless, of course, your response requires you to verify information from multiple people or gather data from different sources. In such cases, you can just shoot back a quick message acknowledging their email and giving them a timeframe on how soon you can get back to them.
While you can effectively manage your emails by simply following the steps we’ve already mentioned, you can go the extra mile by using an email management software.
Most email management software solutions are purpose-built to help you organize large volumes of inbound email, prioritize email responses, as well as minimize email bounces. Some of the key features that you might find helpful are:
If you don’t already have one, you’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of reliable platforms for you to choose from. What’s more, they are often designed for specific aspects of your business so you will be able to find tools that will help you with your objectives. For example. SendinBlue is best for marketing teams who want to maximize their targeted emailing efforts. Meanwhile, Zoho Mail is a great tool for sales teams as it lets you keep track of tasks and schedules in line with your email. There are also email management platforms like Front that is made primarily for team collaboration.
Implementing email management best practices at work is helpful not only in trimming down unproductive work hours. It also reduces the stress you have to deal with on a daily basis, allowing you to focus more on tasks that will move your business forward as well as have the energy to innovate in the workplace.
If that’s not enough here are some other practical benefits that you can reap by practicing effective email management:
To sum it up, effective email management is an art in itself. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will allow you to make the most out of this communication platform. What’s more, might have to go through a few rounds of trial and error to find out what really works for you and your company. For now, you can start by using our guide as the bare-bones structure of your new email management system and work your way towards solutions that will be able to address your company’s specific needs. Also check our guide on email management software if you want to know more about this software category.
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