Is your inbox taking over your life? Here are 12 email management hacks to tame your inbox and stop it from getting out of control.
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The problem with email
A McKinsey study found that we're distracted from work every 10 minutes (56 times a day) and it takes about 25 minutes to get back into the zone again and focus on the task.
So about 2 hours a day is spent just recovering your concentration.
And email is one of the main culprits. In the study scientists found that 70% of e-mail recipients responded within six seconds after receiving, and 85% within 2 minutes. According to the McKinsey:
- On average, 28% of work time is spent on email.
- We check email on average 11 times per hour.
- 84% keep email open in the background while working.
- 64% use notifications to learn about new emails.
- 70% of all received emails open within the first six seconds after receipt.
According to a survey of full-time workers conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2022, respondents received around 32 emails per day, as well as over 20 instant messages and chat messages.
Additionally, office workers received around 12 daily one-to-one phone calls, as well as 13 text messages.
So it's essential to get your inbox under control if you want to get actual work done
12 tips to tame your inbox
- Touch it once rule. The "touch it once" rule is a simple way to keep your inbox tidy. The idea is that as soon as you open an email, you should do something right away. Your choices are to do, delegate, delete, defer. If it will only take a few minutes, there is no reason not to do it right away. Schedule time in your calendar to do things that will take longer.
- Use inbox rules. Both Gmail and Outlook allow you to create processing rules that will sort, redirect or prioritise emails on receipt. You can create a rule that makes your manager's emails a priority, or my favourite rule, anything where I'm copied in goes to a separate folder called CC which I check whenever I have time.
- Stop using folders. Complicated folder hierarchies make it impossible to find anything and you waste time search and filing emails. The search features in Gmail and Outlook are advanced now so you can easily find things. I have an archive folder for everything I want to keep and a Hold folder for quick reference or where I'm waiting for action from someone else.
- Non-essential emails. Things like newsletters, product updates, announcements can be routed to a separate email address, or you could use a rule to send them to a specific folder to read later. You want to keep your main inbox clear.
- Time block and batch email. Create blocks in your calendar where you attend to email. I do 60 minutes morning, 60 minutes in the afternoon and 30 minutes before I leave for the day. That's plenty of time. If it's urgent, people can call me or instant message me.
- Answer what came in that last 48 hours. If you're massively behind, move anything that's over 48 hours old into a folder, and just focus on the last 2 days. Assume that people will chase you for anything older. You can review the emails in older than 2 days if/when you get a chance.
- Create templates and snippets. If you have frequently used phrases or entire emails, create templates. This makes replies much faster. You can use quick parts for Outlook or there are any number of chrome extensions for Gmail. I use TextExpander. It's $40 a year and saves me an hour a month (at least!).
- Use Shortcuts. Both Gmail and Outlook have handy shortcuts that can save you a huge amount of time and help you get through your inbox faster.
- Hit delete. Either archive it or delete it. Don't leave it in your inbox. I've seen people with thousands of emails in their inbox. They have no idea if it's actioned or needs attention. No wonder they're overwhelmed.
- Don't reply to everything. Sometimes people ask questions they could easily find the answers out on their own but they're using you as a shortcut. Don't answer them. Also stop sending acknowledgement of receipt - just reply when you're ready with what they asked for.
- Set reply standards. Commit to your own email reply service level agreement. 1 to 2 days for urgent and important emails. 3 to 5 days for everything else.
- Do a weekly deep clean. Block an hour every week to tidy up your inbox, review outstanding items, give quick updates and delete/archive etc.
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Try the ultimate filing cabinet
I had the pleasure to be introduced to some passionate entrepreneurs at Teamstand. Their goal is to reduce the toil involved with organizing and finding documents and other important information that is buried across a myriad of apps and communication channels.
They want to invite members of our community to try out their private beta, which automatically organizes links, attachments, and documents.
They have been focusing exclusively on Sellers and Account Managers, so they are very interested in making all of you more successful by solving some pains that might exist in your status quo workflows and processes.
Download their (free) Chrome extension, give it a whirl, and provide them critical feedback on how it does (and more importantly, does not!) help you get your job done better.
Please note the extension is currently configured to work with users who use Google Workspace (casually known as Gmail for work). It does not work with personal Gmail accounts or Outlook, Yahoo, etc.
Here is a signup link for their waitlist to be at the top of the list for early access when they open up to more platforms!
If you’re not interested in their product but are open to giving them your thoughts and feedback on their mission, they would also love to talk to you.
Here’s a link to schedule time with their team
Here’s a link to their supporter community, where they post updates on their journey.
I'm excited about this app and can't wait to try and (and to see what they do next!)
Worth a click
+ Sortd. A free all in one productivity suite for Gmail. It completely redesigns the Gmail interface to be more effective and has lots of cool features for email and task management and follow-ups. Early days - I just discovered it last week. But so far I'm impressed!
+ Inbox Zero Tutorial. Jeff Su is a YouTube creator who shares amazing content on workplace productivity and workflow ideas. This tutorial on how to achieve inbox zero is well worth watching. It's about 15 minutes and while he demonstrates using Gmail, you could implement his strategy on any email app.
+ 40+ Email Keyboard Shortcuts. Take your email productivity to the next level with dozens of shortcuts for Gmail and Outlook. Not gonna lie, it's a challenge to remember them and break the habit of using the mouse, but well worth the effort. You'll be faster and more efficient once you get the hang of it.
+ Time Zone Converter. I'm always looking up time zones when I send emails, when I create meetings and when I'm planning events. SavvyCal is a brilliant time zone converter that automatically converts
Quote of the week
"The absence of a message sometimes is a presence of one." ― Hasse Jerner
Let me know if anything in this article caught your eye, I'd love to hear from you.
Have a great week
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