Words by Carlie Tucker
The first email (as we know it today) was sent in the early 1980s. The world has been trying to clear out their inboxes ever since.
Email has become the go-to form of contact for professionals across the globe and has revolutionised how we communicate with one another. Though, it has also spawned the dreaded out of control inbox that many professionals face on a daily basis. This is especially true if you travel regularly for work.
The good news is that there are ways to organise your inbox that will not only put you that much closer to the coveted 'Inbox Zero', but can also help you boost productivity and effective time management. Applicable whether you're at your desk or on the road, here are six tips to help you get that inbox in order.
Turn Off Alerts
If you've become accustomed to email alerts, either on your desktop or your phone, this one may be causing you to break out into a cold sweat. The truth is, there are only a handful instances where alerts are actually helpful. Unless you're waiting for an urgent notification, turn them off and you may soon discover your focus has improved and you're getting through daily tasks quicker.
It eliminates the impulse to answer an email as soon as it hits your inbox, which will cut down on the back-and-forth generally created by group conversations. Instead of answering five or six emails in a row, you'll find you'll only have to answer one.
Set Aside Time To Answer Emails
If you turn off your alerts, this one will be much easier to achieve. It also helps if you're on the road and email access isn't always readily available. The best plan of attack when it comes to answering emails it to set aside pockets of time throughout the day where you can focus 100% of your attention on sorting and answering your messages.
As with above, you'll start to find that you'll cut down on back-and-forth, reducing both the number of incoming messages and the number of messages you need to reply to. You'll also find that your time management will improve across your daily workload as the number of distractions decreases.
Don't Be Afraid To Delete
Part of keeping an organised inbox is not being afraid to delete unnecessary messages without hesitation. During your designated email times, start things off by going through your messages and making quick decisions about what can go. Once you've deleted the junk, you'll feel a sense of achievement and your pared down list of unread messages will be much more manageable.
Create A Filing System
This is perhaps the biggest improvement you can make to your inbox. Organising your messages is a great way to keep track of what can go, what needs urgent attention and what can wait. Create a system that best meets your needs, utilising folders, labels and categories. This will also assist in looking up emails should you need them down the line.
Creating a filing system also includes creating a response deadline for yourself. Aim to respond and file all emails within a certain timeframe (eg. 48 hours) to cut down on the number of emails that sit in your inbox for days, even weeks, at a time.
If you find that your inbox is filling up with newsletters, blogs and advertisements that you never read, the best course of action is to unsubscribe to cut down on unnecessary junk filling up your inbox.
If you feel like you might read these emails at a later date, or you can't unsubscribe for one reason or another, set up an auto file rule that will automatically file the email in a designated folder as soon as it comes into your inbox. This will allow you to keep them all in one place to read through should the mood strike. Plus, no more unnecessary clutter to sift thorough in your inbox.
Choose Your Communication Wisely
Never forget that sending emails causes emails. Create an approach to sending emails that you would like people to emulate when emailing you, and remember that sometimes it's more efficient to just pick up the phone.
If you're finding that a conversation is stretching out, or your messages are increasing in length past 100 or so words, a phone call might be a better way to resolve the issue or task. The same can be applied for urgent items. If you need something right away, a phone call, text or visit (if possible) is a more effective approach.
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