As if working from home wasn’t bad enough, you’re stuck in the house, your motivation is low and your in-box seems to be growing arms and legs……….so what do you do to keep on top of it?
Here are some valuable tips on how to get back in control, how to manage email effectively, and get that in-box looking as empty as the day you started.
The Purge (email subscriptions that is)
First things first, the easiest thing to do is to limit the number of emails coming in, sounds simple enough, less emails coming in the better, as they just clutter up your in-box giving you more to wade through. So go through all those subscription emails, the ones you signed up to as you were getting 15% off that one item you bought ages ago. Be brutal, if you do not read every single on of them fully, press unsubscribe now. Lots of emails now allow you to unsubscribe at the beginning of the email, otherwise they can sometimes be sneaky and put them right at the bottom. You normally then get taken to their website, when they plead with you, or at least ask why you’re leaving them. Don’t waver at this point, just press unsubscribe. You’ll be glad you did.
Deal With the Worst First
As much as you want to put that difficult job off until the very last thing, it’s not helping and dragging you down. Commit some time to get the work done and get it out-of-the-way. You’ll be glad once it’s done and out-of-the-way leaving you to concentrate on some of the easier tasks.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The last thing you want is to be constantly reminded of how many emails you have to go through so the best option is to set aside specific times during the day when you will check your emails, otherwise shut it down and concentrate on your outstanding tasks. With email there, every time you hear that ping or see the little envelope sign, you’ll be tempted just to have a look, then suddenly, you’re distracted and dealing with something non-urgent. I would recommend checking first thing, then don’t return to email until about 11. Check after lunch, then around 4 just in case there’s something urgent that’s required before you close down for the day.
Simple is Best
It may seem like an obvious one, but remember to set up specific folders for your emails. One you may want to add is a specific folder for emails where you’re not the main recipient. The emails where you are CC’d in are probably not intended for you to action, merely as information (or to cover someone else so they can use the “you were copied in that email” line at the next Zoom meeting). So, set up an email rule so that any email you are CC’d into gets moved into a “holding” folder that you can go through when you have more time. This keeps your attention focused on the important stuff and your in-box uncluttered.
Set reminders to send specific emails. If you have deadlines, then create reminders, whether electronic or old-fashioned post-it notes to remind you to send that email. It’s easy to forget once you get into some other work to send that monthly report that was due at 4pm three weeks on Tuesday. Set a reminder for 3:30 or earlier if it takes time to prepare so that you don’t forget.
One way of keeping track of your emails is by creating specific subject lines. It may seem silly but if you deal with more than one location, simply putting the name of the location at the beginning of any emails you send to them will make tracking and sorting emails much easier. This in turn makes finding emails much easier. You could take this one or two steps using keywords of topics, months, projects or whatever – just whatever you deal with and makes sense.
If you have repetitive emails you have to send, spend some time initially setting up templates so that you don’t have to re-type the same thing every week or month. Once it’s set up, that’s it. It saves time and keeps the wording the same (see above).
Out of Hours
Try, as much as possible, to avoid going onto your email outwith your working hours. You may think that it makes you look professional but there’s very few emails that won’t keep until the next day, you’ll keep your sanity and not ruin your evening (and those around you) working. Especially now, more than ever, getting time away from your desk is SO important. Many companies are taking advantage of people working from home, knowing that they won’t be far from their computer. If you are having problems, feeling down or lacking motivation, check out my other article relating to this here.
So hopefully that’s a few ideas to help you get to grips with an out of control in-box. I was writing a couple of those thinking that I should really do that myself – always easier to give advice!
If you have any ideas or specific things you do to keep your email in-box under control please feel free to share them below in the comments. I would love to hear from you. Or if you have any topics you would like me to cover again drop it in a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.