Email can be a great tool for communication…that is if used correctly. Can’t make it to a meeting? Request that the minutes be sent to your email. Need to sent a document to a client and its after-office hours? Convert to PDF and send as an email attachment for immediate receipt.
What if your email inbox is a disaster? You can opt to jump ship and abandon the email account in favor of a new one but it takes a great deal of time to update everyone with your new email–not only friends, family, and co-workers but also the online services that you use and do business with! A better option is to continue reading this post where we will learn to tame our email inboxes with three steps: (1) analyzing, (2) planning, and (3) executing.
Analyze your email
Open up your inbox and quickly scan the content looking for patterns. What do you see? Perhaps a bunch of forwarded emails, newsletters, SPAM, notifications from social media sites, mixed in with important emails that you often overlook as a result of the prior.
Plan of action
You’ll need to decide what action you wish to take against each kind of correspondence that you are receiving. Reference the suggestions below for ideas:
- Leave as is – self-explanatory (essentially you are opting to take no action)
- Filter to a specific folder (label) – upon arrival, the email message is tagged and sorted to a specific location in your inbox. Access these types of emails by navigating to this location
- Auto-archive – upon arrival, skips your inbox but a copy is retained as a backup; Access these types of emails by running a search for these messages
- Auto-delete – upon arrival, moved to trash where it will be automatically destroyed by a time period determined by your email provider (not recommended)
It is up to you how you go about targeting specific email correspondences but review the paragraphs below for some guidance.
It is recommended that you perform actions that target batches of emails first. An example would be marking certain messages as spam. If you see a particular message in your inbox over and over. Run a search for that message and then select all of them and mark as spam–poof all those emails just disappeared from your inbox and will no longer pester you.
For forwarded emails, if you read all of them, then that is fine but if you find yourself only liking only certain kinds, kindly send a short email to others requesting that they not forward any future messages. If they fail to follow through–create a filter to zap them to a specific label or auto-archive.
Notifications can be intense. You just received a friend request on Facebook–email notification for you! You just placed a bid on an item on eBay–email notification for you! You got some new followers on Twitter–an email notification for you for each! You have the best judgement for notifications–if you use these services on a regular basis you’ll be notified when you login so just head to account settings and request fewer emails or a daily digest which summarizes a bunch of information into one email.
Email newsletters are thoughtful but what if you have no interest in a company as you no longer use their products or services. Now is a good time to locate all of those emails under this category and hit the “unsubscribe” button. For the ones that you still want to hear from, head to your account settings and request that they email less–maybe once a week, instead of once a day.
You can even create filters for the good email as well. For those client emails, generate a filter and now you have all correspondence in one location! Don’t forget that you can “archive” emails in your inbox and they will be removed to a backup folder such as “All Mail” with the GMAIL service but will still be reachable by a running quick search!
Remember to works at this for a few “minutes a day.” It may seem overwhelming so its best to view them as objectives of getting to your goal of a manageable inbox.
Extra tips: email etiquette for business use
- Always add a meaningful subject
- Be concise
- Use appropriate grammar and spelling
- Never use all CAPS or emoticons
- Minimize use of work email for personal use
- Use a signature
Before sending, review the email to ensure it fulfills its purpose and remember to double-check that the recipient is correct and that any attached files are actually attached. For more tips, please check out a write-up on email etiquette by The University of Queensland, Australia.
Image credit: m-c on Flickr