Does the mere thought of too much email send you into a cold sweat? Is your mailbox a messy mashup of unread messages and tasks saved for later?
It doesn’t have to be this way. The dream of an organized inbox may seem a world away, but it’s closer than you think.
Email, like any other tool, adds value to your life when used properly. With a smart plan, you can turn your inbox into one of your greatest communication allies.
Your email is a part of your identity – Guard it carefully
This principle could be considered the Golden Rule of email management. For busy people, it’s imperative that your email address goes to only those who need it. If your address floats around in too many places, your inbox is sure to overflow.
A method to guard your identity is to use a couple of addresses. You have your ‘real’ email address—the one you use every day. The alternate address is one you can use when filling out forms, making online purchases, etc. That second address will direct all of the promotional messages and other junk out of the way so your main address can remain clean.
In a world where many people struggle with a work-life balance, separate email addresses are a great place to start. Just use an app that can easily keep your accounts all in one place but managed separately.
Don’t let the dust settle
Procrastination can lead to problems in many areas of your life. That’s certainly true when it comes to emails. If you don’t deal with your emails soon after they arrive, you’ll have a mess on your hands shortly.
Try establishing a schedule for going through your inbox. For instance, you might plan to manage emails three times per day. Take care of this task in the morning, after lunch, and before going home. With three check-ins, you’ll keep up sufficiently without it taking over your day.
Using technology to your advantage is helpful in this pursuit. Try the Play My Emails feature in Outlook for iOS. This feature plays emails aloud and offers a handy summary of your inbox and calendar.
Whether you use it to see on what’s new in your inbox at work or for a personal account, you can listen and act on messages with simple voice commands or one-finger swipe to triage as you go. To reply to an email, simply dictate a short message and send it off. It’s great for catching up in the morning while commuting or during your lunch break when your hands may be otherwise busy.
Deleting an email can be hard. Even if you don’t think you’ll need that message in the future, it’s still tough to press the button. But you’ve got to do it.
It’s essential to delete irrelevant emails because they can take a mental toll if left alone. The feeling of clutter in your inbox can cause you to feel overwhelmed, even if those messages aren’t necessary. By regularly deleting work emails, you take a small step toward lowering stress levels.
Still not sure that you can get into this habit? Try an intermediate step. Instead of deleting emails immediately, swipe to schedule them to come back in your inbox at a more convenient time. Otherwise, remove the rest and enjoy your weekend.
No need for a novel
We are all guilty of using too many words from time to time. It’s easy to get carried away in emails when a shorter message would almost certainly do the job.
Teach yourself to write shorter messages when corresponding with colleagues and clients as well as friends and family. You will save time by writing shorter emails, and your message will be clearer, as well.
There is an art to writing short, informative emails. You may find it difficult at first, but it will get manageable with practice. Soon, you’ll notice that most of your messages are no more than a few sentences.
Also, you can use bullet points to present a few ideas quickly and concisely. The recipients of your messages will love the brevity, and you’ll get more done day after day.