Organize for Success® Turns 10
Today, let's cover the top ten ways to control your email:
10. Shift your mentality from "checking" to "processing" new messages. According to stats from email marketing company BlueHornet, consumers look at their phones more than 150 times a day on average, many of those times to glance at their email inboxes. Each time you read a new email and, then, plan to come back to deal with it later, that initial reading becomes a distraction because you have to re-read the message and re-start your thought process on how to deal with it. Instead of reading and re-reading your emails throughout each day, think of OHIO and "only handle it once", meaning you don't read new messages until you are ready to deal with them, you use your inbox as a funnel instead of a holding zone and you limit time wasted. Follow Nike's advice and "Just do it" for tasks that take less than 5 minutes. Move tasks that take more time to a running to-do list, appointment requests to your calendar, reference emails to your personal folders and those messages that are no longer needed to your trash file.
9. Delete and discard can be your friends. When you keep fewer emails, you have fewer messages to search through when looking for a specific one. Data changes rapidly these days so keep only what is accurate, applicable, useful or bringing you joy. Plus, if the information is easy to locate through a quick online search, there's no reason to use space in your email folders for retaining it.
8. Send fewer emails out to get fewer replies back. Sometimes, a quick phone conversation can replace multiple, back-and-forth email messages, even if you have to follow that call with a summary email for documentation purposes.
7. Unsubscribe. When you are no longer reading emails to which you subscribe, they become additional clutter clogging up your functionality. I realize that deleting an email takes only a second; however, those seconds add up, and the time it takes to unsubscribe is likely less than the accumulation of all the time deleting those multiple messages received. While the content might've been of interest to you when you signed up for it, if your need for that information has changed, take time to unsubscribe.
6. Utilize all available tools and functionality. Technological tools like Airmail, Mailstrom, SaneBox, Sortd and Spark will speed up your email processing, some automating this so it happens without your time doing it. Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to send at optimal times, know when your message is read and get follow-up reminders for messages sent out. Further, many email management tools come equipped with features like Delay Send, Send Again, Meeting Requests, receipt notifications and the ability to rename your received emails' subject lines. Finally, if you are using newer versions of Outlook, there is a "clean-up conversations" button in the home ribbon to remove clutter from prior conversations in back-and-forth email messaging.
5. Bundle together when you get subscriptions you read. If you are subscribed to an eNewsletter via an email address from Outlook.com (including Hotmail, MSN and Windows Live), Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail or iCloud, you can utilize Unroll.me to get all of the subscription emails received each day in a "rollup", which is one email with all your designated subscriptions categorized intuitively that appears in your inbox every day at the time you choose rather than getting each message individually as it's sent to you. Unroll.me will determine all the lists to which you have subscribed simply by telling it your email address; then, as you are choosing which emails go into your "rollup", you can unsubscribe directly from Unroll.me with one click. Further, Unroll.me offers this bundled email for free... Yes, that's right; it's free. If you have not already subscribed to lists via one of those email services, simply create a free Gmail account and, then, update your subscriptions with it. For FAQs, click here.
4. Set others' expectations. As human-beings, when there is a lapse in information provided, we inherently fill in the blanks ourselves. When it comes to how quickly you are going to get back to someone sending you an email, you probably do not want anyone creating this expectation for him- or herself. When you are clear on your goals for how to use email as a tool in your productivity toolbox and you are aware of your time constraints for when you will realistically be able to process newly received messages, you can designate what are appropriate expectations. Then, it is your responsibility to clearly communicate those to others, whether it is via initial meetings with new clients, in your email signature, with an autoresponder or through your actions as you respond to emails at regular intervals each workday.
3. Eliminate notifications. Every time you hear a sound alerting you to a new email or see the first few lines pop up in a preview, it distracts you from completing that big, hairy audacious goal in your life. That distraction permeates your thoughts and forces you to waste time re-engaging in the task at hand. Remove that time suck by turning off all the pings, dings, alerts and previews.
2. Strategically utilize rules in your email tool. Whether you check your new email in Gmail, Mac Mail or Outlook, you can create rules (or filters or labels) for certain emails to bypass your inbox and go directly to a designated folder. For example, if you get Google Alerts, you could have them culled together into their own folder rather than processing them from your inbox. Anything that should be handled when more convenient for you should be directed away from the inbox, allowing you to control when they get your attention. Likewise, if you have a few VIP contacts needing more immediate responses, give each of them his or her own folder and, then, create a rule for messages from that person to go directly into the specified folder, which will draw your attention into those needing a reply sooner than finding them amidst other messages in the inbox. You can override the alphabetical order of your personal folders to put those VIPs atop the list of folders by adding a number or symbol at the beginning of each folder's name, better grabbing your attention for new emails.
1. Master the art of creating reference folders. It is important to have enough personal folders that each email to be kept has a home while limiting the number of folders so no one email could appropriately fit into multiple different folders or you forget what folders you already have, leading to duplication as you create new versions of what you already have. If you struggle with where to file a message upon its receipt, how will you ever be able to locate it again when you need to retrieve it?
Do you find email overwhelming? Which are your favorite tactics for controlling email instead of letting it control you? Will you try implementing any of these strategies?