Promoted as a time-saving device and productivity-booster, the email is nowadays seen more as a time-wasting curse for many. Always running in the background, it pervades office life and beckons people’s attention all day long, eventually damaging productivity and focus and increasing stress.
It is time to get back in control by applying 12 simple tips of email management and remembering that emails are a tool at your service – not the other way around.
Those distracting email alerts chiming or popping up on the side of the screen are small distractions that prevent from concentrating on one job at a time. It creates a false sense of emergency, making us feel like we need to read this new email at once. Just disable the notification and if needed, the notification sound to avoid having your attention drawn away.
2. Setting email times
You are the one in control; just set yourself a few times a day to check your emails and reply. Schedule the time and the length of time that is best suited for you to do this task for instance “30 minutes after lunch” when you are not at your most creative. Make sure you are not interrupted.
3. Processing emails
Deal with your emails when you are reading them: delete, reply, forward or file them in the relevant folders. Flag emails that require action, and prioritise. Decide if it is for you to action, or if it needs to be forwarded to someone else. Do not leave them in your inbox.
4. Unsubscribe these newsletters that clutter your inbox and that you never read, or, if you plan to have a look later use your email management system to have them filed automatically in a dedicated folder, not in the inbox.
5. Filing emails
Once read and actioned, file your emails into relevant folders, saving data space allowance and time.
Whether you choose an alphabetical, colour-coded or numerical order is entirely up to you and the type of projects you manage. Long emails such as reports or links can be filed in specific folders where you know to find them when you have more time.
In order to avoid running out of allowed space, archive emails –as you would paper files on a regular basis. Depending on company’s email management policy, this can be done either on hard drive, shared network or cloud.
About half of the emails we get can be deleted – if they contain anything important or contractual, then they would be filed in specific folders. If not, or if it is the umpteenth email of a long discussion with all replies attached, only keep the last one and bin the rest.
8. Facilitating emails
It may seem obvious, but writing short and relevant email subject lines makes reading and filing much easier. Take the time to write a well-defined title which with time will mean far more than “RE:re:re:” The use of “EOM” (end of message) on the subject line, when there is no content following, is equally time-saving, making it unnecessary to open the email.
In any case, keep your emails short, clear and professional and make sure your email signature contains all relevant information (address, phone numbers, working hours) so that people do not have to ask for it.
9. Creating groups
Certain communications go to certain people on a regular basis e.g. term report, monthly stats, etc; creating groups (or distribution lists) with relevant addressees helps save time and declutter the outbox. If you want your addressees to remain ignorant of others, just fill in the email addresses under “bcc” instead of “to”.
10. Using rules
Email systems enable users to organise received or sent emails, e.g. by moving emails arriving from management into a high importance folder or file specific emails (identified with key words or distribution list); this saves time and helps with organisation and priorities.
Using the “actions” or “task” tools will enable you to plan ahead your work and prioritise. With colour-coded categories and date-flagging you can organise your projects and timelines. You can even plan reminders to make sure important dates or deadlines are remembered.
Automatic email signatures allow people to add logos, videos, links and messages. People can choose to have different signatures depending on the type of addressee or message they want to convey, e.g. promoting a new event, the launch of a new product or service etc.