Efficient communication in the workplace is integral for ensuring a smooth relationship with coworkers, customers, and clients. Since the start of the pandemic, many businesses have found themselves in uncharted waters, with a significant chunk of work moving to online platforms, resulting in the fact that most work-related communication is now through online channels like email and Slack.
Another consequence of the pandemic is that online shopping and eCommerce retailing are at an all-time high, and several brands have increased emailing out newsletters, reminders, and alerts. Add up all those work-related emails with the new influx of promotional emails, and now you’ve got yourself an overflowing inbox.
The elusive, empty inbox seems like a myth, but we’re here to tell you that it’s wholly possible to achieve through proper inbox management. To get to magic number zero, we’ve put together a few ways to properly manage your emails and maximize your efficiency and productivity.
The best ways to manage emails
Although email management isn’t a one-step process, it isn’t difficult to manage on your own either. A clutter-free inbox means a clutter-free headspace for work. Here’s how you can optimize your email inbox to better manage incoming messages, reminders, and alerts.
Don’t reply to every email immediately
Discipline and scheduling in any field yield results, and it’s the same when it comes to email management. A good habit is to schedule when you check your inbox. And it’s important to stick to your scheduled time so incoming emails don’t pile up and you don’t end up with an overflowing inbox that becomes too messy to salvage.
It’s advisable to deal with your email according to the nature of the email itself. For example, if an email doesn’t require an action from you, send it to appropriate folders for archiving. If you receive a spam email, send it to the trash. For emails that require a short response, reply immediately. If emails need detailed action that you can’t get to right away, set up a reminder to deal with it later at a more convenient time, or reply to the sender to let them know you saw it but can’t immediately take action.
Spring clean with the delete button
To avoid clutter accumulation in your inbox, we recommend a “spring cleaning” every once in a while. A more organized way to deal with an overflowing inbox is to set up a schedule where you take care of emails in your spam and trash folders. Depending on the frequency of incoming emails, you can do this on a biweekly or monthly basis at the very least.
This step is important because even with active filters and labeled folders, emails can clog up in your inbox. The more you let your inbox sit unchecked, the harder it’ll be to deal with later on. Any email that you don’t need, archive it. And if you think there are emails you won’t ever need, well, don’t be afraid to hit that “delete” button.
Use labels, folders, and categories
After you’ve decluttered your inbox, it’s time to set up space for new and existing messages. This can be done by making appropriate folders and categories for your email based on your email services platform’s available settings. It’s possible to sort incoming emails into folders if you are using Gmail or Outlook as these service providers have built-in features to assist you in email organization.
And there are plenty of ways to organize your email inbox by assigning different labels to folders. If you want a clear distinction between work and personal emails, divide your inbox accordingly so you stay focused on one inbox during the appropriate time, free of email without unnecessary distractions. You can further divide your mail according to topics and projects by different labels, as well as create a separate folder for high-priority emails according to deadlines and workplace importance.
Please unsubscribe from emails you no longer want
One way to ensure fewer emails in your inbox is to unsubscribe from newsletter campaigns you no longer read. Taking care of subscriptions means that extra, unwanted promotional emails and newsletters won’t pile up in your inbox, and leaves room for other more important emails.
Now, we understand that unsubscribing from every single email you no longer want to receive seems like it would take a lot of time. Fret not, for it is indeed possible to tackle this problem easily and quickly.
Specific tools allow you to mass unsubscribe in a few simple steps so that decluttering your email inbox doesn’t take more time than necessary. Unroll.me is one such tool that lets you sort through your subscription lists quickly so you have fewer emails to deal with.
Filter your inbox
Once you’ve created folders and labels for your emails, make future sorting easier by automating the process. Email service providers like Gmail and Outlook let you create filters and sort emails into different folders according to keywords. These platforms come with built-in filters that detect spam emails and send them to respective folders automatically. Filters allow you to prioritize emails depending on their importance so you have fewer emails to deal with at one time.
Convert your group email accounts into shared inboxes
If you’re working in an environment that emphasizes collaboration, you might be part of group emails. However, the downside of group emails is that they don’t always pertain to the entire group, save for a few people. But how do you stay in the group but also not spend your time scrolling through an email chain that doesn’t pertain to you?
Email collaboration tools like Hiver help you take care of such dilemmas and easily integrate into your existing email inboxes. Such tools let you communicate internally without the use of actual emails, and they also make sure that the senders share tasks with relevant people only. If you are in a work environment that relies on effective communication and teamwork, it’s good to invest in these management tools and shared inboxes.
Use templates or canned responses
If you’re in a situation where you feel that you need to write the same response repeatedly to multiple people, stop right there. Instead of spending time curating each email, use email templates and canned responses. The majority of email service providers allow you to create shortcuts and templates to increase email management automation.
Instead of spending 10 minutes on each email, spend a total of 10 minutes on similar emails and create a standard response. For example, Gmail allows you to use its Canned Responses feature that you can access by going to the Labs section of the website’s settings. Miramax is another email management tool that makes the creation of templates and canned responses that much easier.
Groups or distribution lists to the rescue
Typing out everyone’s email address becomes far too lengthy a process to be efficient. Such a situation demands innovation. Here is where email groups and distribution lists shine. If your workplace values team collaboration, then groups and lists might be just the thing. Set up different collaboration spaces for your coworkers, and tailor specific distribution lists according to different criteria, to ensure that the email that only requires three people’s attention isn’t sent to the entire office.
Turn off notifications and close your email tab
If incoming emails, notifications, pop-up messages are too overwhelming to complete your to-do list, it might be time for you to hit pause and take a break from your inbox.
It’s important to understand that you don’t need to watch your inbox all the time or reply to every email right away. If you have a task at hand that requires your attention and is more important than incoming emails, simply turn off your email notifications and focus on what needs to get done.
Email service providers like Boomerang let you turn off notifications from specific senders for as long as you want, and only focus on the most important emails, like from your boss.
Use email management tools
If emails are a big part of your workplace communication, it’s beneficial and time-efficient to invest in email management software. These management tools provide you with shortcuts and features that make email management a breeze. And oftentimes, these tools come with a free trial so you can see for yourself what works best for you.
Boomerang is an email management tool that’s compatible with Gmail and lets you schedule emails for a later time and remove irrelevant emails.
Based on what you need, there are several email management tools, extensions, and add-ons that you can integrate with your existing inbox to optimize your digital communication environment. These tools work in real-time and “sort” your mail even when you’re away from your computer, so you don’t have to worry about waking up at 2 a.m. to send an email and can schedule it instead.
A well-managed inbox helps you stay on top of things and minimizes the chances of forgetting important tasks. Additionally, the time you save through email management adds to your leisure time. You can actually relax during your time off and not worry about important emails getting lost in the mail.
Now that you have an idea on how to tackle an overflowing inbox and make sense of your email influx, you know that you have the power to take control of your inbox and make the most out of the electronic mail system through a few fundamental changes and scheduled routine.
One of the most attractive benefits of a well-managed and clutter-free inbox is reducing your stress level. It positively affects your mood and productivity and leaves you with time to spend on other things that need your focus and attention.