How to Manage Email

Emails are a great communication tool, if you use them well. But the average employee spends a third of their day answering email, and a study of employees cut off from email “multitasked less, could focus for longer periods of time and felt less stressed.” Many companies have resorted to instituting policies forcing employees off their computers. But you don’t have to use extreme measures. Just learn how to manage your email.

1. Create an email routine.

Checking your email constantly feels productive, but “it takes about one and a half minutes to read and recover from reading an email.” Multiply that by the emails you receive, and it’s no wonder you can’t get anything done! Spend 2-3 sessions of 20-30 minutes each checking email each day. Remove any audible or visual alerts, and set your email so it’s not constantly reloading. Stay accessible by setting  up an auto-alert saying, “If this is an urgent matter, please call.” When you open your email, set a timer to stay focused, and answer in offline mode so you don’t get trapped into email tennis. Finally, never respond to emails after business hours or first thing in the morning. Teach your colleagues and clients when you’re available to work.

2. Erase junk.

Unsubscribe to any newsletters you don’t read, and get those you want simultaneously with a service like unroll.me. Turn off email notifications from social media sites. Set up a ‘rule’ directing junk mail to a designated folder. Finally, when you’re asked for your email address but don’t want to give it, get a self-destructing email address from 10-Minute Mail.

3. Send less email.

The less email you send, the less email you’ll receive. So could your message be better communicated in a different fashion? If an email thread will be over four messages, call instead. Got lots to discuss? Try a chat platform that saves your conversations. Finally, never send email when you’re angry. You might be upset over a misunderstanding, and an angry email will come back to haunt you.

4. Store your emails elsewhere.

How many times have you found yourself digging through the trash to find an email you didn’t know you needed? Wait a week before emptying your trash. Paranoid about losing something important? Archive them into folders, sorting by project or date. If you have several unread emails, move them into a folder labeled “Old Inbox” so you can look at them later. Running out of space?  Store it in the cloud. However, be judicious about the emails you keep. A long exchange with an old high school friend is worthy; a routine convo with your ex isn’t.

5. Respond to everything.

Did you know most people take 7 hours to respond to even their closest contacts? Be proactive and respond to all emails within 24 hours, starting with the oldest one. Even a simple “Got it” will prevent people from re-sending you a message. If you can’t complete a task today, ask the sender to remind you. Alternatively, start ignoring emails, moving all emails (even the unread ones) from your inbox after two weeks. Anyone who needs to reach you will call or email you again, and eventually learn to contact you by other means. But be careful –  you don’t want to screw up a presentation because you didn’t read the email.

6.Train your coworkers.

If your coworkers send long, confusing emails, it’s time to train them how to write. Don’t schedule a training session most people will ignore – change how you write emails. We’ve got some tips here.

7. Take an email sabbatical.

Do you get antsy when you can’t check email? Is email taking over your life? You might be addicted if you fit these warning signs. Even if you’re not, take a break from email for a few days. Not checking email for a weekend is incredibly freeing, and it’s even better when you’re on vacation! Set your vacation responder and enjoy a few days email-free.

8. Use “Inbox Zero.”

If your inbox is your task manager, only keep 20 emails at a time. But try the “Inbox Zero” strategy instead. Inbox Zero treats your inbox as a temporary holding place, so each time you process your inbox, it’s reduced to zero.

First, follow these rules:

  1. David Allen’s Two-Minute Rule: If it takes less than 2 minutes to respond, do it now.

  2. Only touch each email once: Don’t mark emails unread because you don’t know what to do with them.

  3. FAT: File it, Act on it, or Trash it.

Then, create these labels and sort your email accordingly.

  • Reply: Any emails it takes longer than 2 minutes to respond to goes here. Put any waiting tasks on your task manager. Remember, email is a source of your to-dos – not a to-do list.

  • Waiting: Any email that needs a response or you want to process later goes here. Review this folder each week, sending reminders for unanswered emails and archiving necessary conversations.

  • Archive: Don’t want to trash it? Need it for reference? Archive it.

9. Recognize that email is a symptom.

An overload of email means your company or team lacks “clear and effective communication protocols.” Confused colleagues send many emails and hold many meetings. Once you’ve reduced your email count, learn where all your email comes from and what you can do about it. Much of this should be alleviated by following Step 3. But you might need to take down a customer service box, clarify an issue, or inform colleagues of their responsibilities. To manage the virtual world of email, you must work on it in the real world too.

10. Know when you need help.

Are you still drowning in emails? Do you get over 400 non-spam emails each day? Hire a virtual assistant.  Your assistant manages your email by answering questions, forwarding emails to appropriate departments, and sending you the ones only you can answer. The productive hours you’ll gain are well worth it.

Did we miss your favorite tips for email organization? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Tweet us @SuperheroYou

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Emails are a great communication tool, if you use them well. But the average employee spends a third of their day answering email, and a study of employees cut off from email “multitasked less, could focus for longer periods of time and felt less stressed.” Many companies have resorted to instituting policies forcing employees off their computers. But you don’t have to use extreme measures. Just learn how to manage your email.

1. Create an email routine.

Checking your email constantly feels productive, but “it takes about one and a half minutes to read and recover from reading an email.” Multiply that by the emails you receive, and it’s no wonder you can’t get anything done! Spend 2-3 sessions of 20-30 minutes each checking email each day. Remove any audible or visual alerts, and set your email so it’s not constantly reloading. Stay accessible by setting  up an auto-alert saying, “If this is an urgent matter, please call.” When you open your email, set a timer to stay focused, and answer in offline mode so you don’t get trapped into email tennis. Finally, never respond to emails after business hours or first thing in the morning. Teach your colleagues and clients when you’re available to work.

2. Erase junk.

Unsubscribe to any newsletters you don’t read, and get those you want simultaneously with a service like unroll.me. Turn off email notifications from social media sites. Set up a ‘rule’ directing junk mail to a designated folder. Finally, when you’re asked for your email address but don’t want to give it, get a self-destructing email address from 10-Minute Mail.

3. Send less email.

The less email you send, the less email you’ll receive. So could your message be better communicated in a different fashion? If an email thread will be over four messages, call instead. Got lots to discuss? Try a chat platform that saves your conversations. Finally, never send email when you’re angry. You might be upset over a misunderstanding, and an angry email will come back to haunt you.

4. Store your emails elsewhere.

How many times have you found yourself digging through the trash to find an email you didn’t know you needed? Wait a week before emptying your trash. Paranoid about losing something important? Archive them into folders, sorting by project or date. If you have several unread emails, move them into a folder labeled “Old Inbox” so you can look at them later. Running out of space?  Store it in the cloud. However, be judicious about the emails you keep. A long exchange with an old high school friend is worthy; a routine convo with your ex isn’t.

5. Respond to everything.

Did you know most people take 7 hours to respond to even their closest contacts? Be proactive and respond to all emails within 24 hours, starting with the oldest one. Even a simple “Got it” will prevent people from re-sending you a message. If you can’t complete a task today, ask the sender to remind you. Alternatively, start ignoring emails, moving all emails (even the unread ones) from your inbox after two weeks. Anyone who needs to reach you will call or email you again, and eventually learn to contact you by other means. But be careful –  you don’t want to screw up a presentation because you didn’t read the email.

6.Train your coworkers.

If your coworkers send long, confusing emails, it’s time to train them how to write. Don’t schedule a training session most people will ignore – change how you write emails. We’ve got some tips here.

7. Take an email sabbatical.

Do you get antsy when you can’t check email? Is email taking over your life? You might be addicted if you fit these warning signs. Even if you’re not, take a break from email for a few days. Not checking email for a weekend is incredibly freeing, and it’s even better when you’re on vacation! Set your vacation responder and enjoy a few days email-free.

8. Use “Inbox Zero.”

If your inbox is your task manager, only keep 20 emails at a time. But try the “Inbox Zero” strategy instead. Inbox Zero treats your inbox as a temporary holding place, so each time you process your inbox, it’s reduced to zero.

First, follow these rules:

  1. David Allen’s Two-Minute Rule: If it takes less than 2 minutes to respond, do it now.

  2. Only touch each email once: Don’t mark emails unread because you don’t know what to do with them.

  3. FAT: File it, Act on it, or Trash it.

Then, create these labels and sort your email accordingly.

  • Reply: Any emails it takes longer than 2 minutes to respond to goes here. Put any waiting tasks on your task manager. Remember, email is a source of your to-dos – not a to-do list.

  • Waiting: Any email that needs a response or you want to process later goes here. Review this folder each week, sending reminders for unanswered emails and archiving necessary conversations.

  • Archive: Don’t want to trash it? Need it for reference? Archive it.

9. Recognize that email is a symptom.

An overload of email means your company or team lacks “clear and effective communication protocols.” Confused colleagues send many emails and hold many meetings. Once you’ve reduced your email count, learn where all your email comes from and what you can do about it. Much of this should be alleviated by following Step 3. But you might need to take down a customer service box, clarify an issue, or inform colleagues of their responsibilities. To manage the virtual world of email, you must work on it in the real world too.

10. Know when you need help.

Are you still drowning in emails? Do you get over 400 non-spam emails each day? Hire a virtual assistant.  Your assistant manages your email by answering questions, forwarding emails to appropriate departments, and sending you the ones only you can answer. The productive hours you’ll gain are well worth it.

Did we miss your favorite tips for email organization? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Tweet us @SuperheroYou

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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