Email is one of the great paradoxes of business today. It can be one of the best communications tools – an easy way to stay in contact with colleagues and customers. But it can also be an untamable mess that creates more confusion than clarity and drains away your productivity.
So, how are you supposed to manage your email so that it helps you get work done, rather than hinders you?
Here are five best practices for managing your emails.
Get organized. If you’re one of those people who has 2,000 emails in your inbox, you’ve got trouble. Certainly, there are some emails that must be kept. But keeping them all in your inbox is akin to stacking up all your important papers on your desk.
Most email programs allow you to mark messages with specific labels or categories. Create folders in your email for customers, projects, and other important parts of business, such as a folder for “employee matters,” “legal,” “accounting,” etc. As emails come in, simply move them to the appropriate folder; you still have them, but they’re stored in a way that reduces clutter. The better your filing system, the easier it will be to manage your email and find things when you need them.
Schedule blocks of time for reading and responding to email. Rather than submit to the Pavlovian response to check your inbox every time you hear that little ding, block out time during your day specifically for reading and answering emails. For instance, check emails from 8 to 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to noon, and 3 to 4 p.m.
You can mark your calendar as “busy” to ward off instant messages, and create an auto-responder that notifies people that you’ll get to their email in the prescribed timeframe.
Whenever possible, take action immediately. We’ve all had that important email that slips down your inbox; you find it two weeks later, too late to respond. Whenever you can, try to address important emails when you see them.
Unsubscribe from emails you don’t read. Whether they’re promotions you have no intention of taking advantage of or newsletters you never read, it’s time to take a couple of seconds to unsubscribe to those emails. Like the clutter in your office or home, they’re inhibiting you from focusing on the important stuff.
Consider a purge. If you’ve got thousands of emails dating back six months and would need to take a week to read them all, it’s best to acknowledge that you’re simply not going to do it. Take the dramatic step and delete all of your emails. Yes, all of them.
Notify everyone in your address book you’ve done this, and tell them to resend anything they think is important. Once you’ve done this, adhere to the best practices above so you don’t find yourself right back in the same quagmire.
Email is intended to make us more productive at work, but too often it does the exact opposite. It doesn’t have to be this way, but you need to change your approach if your email is controlling you rather than helping you.
Contact us at 215.441.4600 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or would like to discuss how this topic may impact your business.
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