Emails are one of those things that are bitter sweet. On one hand, email has seriously improved our ability to communicate. It’s awesome!
But then on the other hand you’re always “available” to a certain degree. And everyone is using email. Besides the fact that it means you can reach anyone, it means it can get overwhelming. Fast.
In my opinion, the benefits of email outweigh the not-so-fun parts. So that really just means you need some tactics and strategies to keep inboxes in control.
My inbox is my temple.
An organized inbox means a happy Carly.
I spend way too much time reading and responding to emails, but they’re a necessary evil in this era. One of the things that is important to me is actually responding to emails. Most correspondence for work and the blog happen over email, so if I’m not on top of what’s happening, then I’m probably missing something. That something might be an amazing opportunity or an assignment for work or just an invitation for brunch with friends.
Here are my suggestions based on how I manage my inboxes:
ONE // Set a Goal
Setting a goal is going to ensure that keeping your inbox in check is a priority. Before deciding on a goal, I would try to figure out what your cadence of emails is. My “goal” has changed over the past year as I started working and now receive a lot more blog email than I ever have. For my work email, I set a goal of clearing my inbox every night. And for blogging, I try to keep my “need to answer” email under 50 at any given time.
TWO // Dedicate Time
Figure out what works for you in terms of getting through emails. For work, I’m pretty much always available on email so I respond to things as they come. If they’re not time sensitive, I’ll wait until the last hour I’m in the office when I just crank through everything and tie up loose ends. (I prefer to answer at night in case someone is waiting on someone and it somewhat ensures that I won’t get flooded with responses… which would happen if I did that during the morning!)
For blogging, I try to spend thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes at night responding to time sensitive emails. My blog email account is pretty out of control all the time. I try as hard as possible to keep up with it, but I typically teeter at the 45/50 mark. At some point during the weekend (Saturday mornings are my favorite), I sit down and crank through all the emails. It takes about three hours, but upwards of four if I was lazy during the week. It’s not the most fun few hours of my week, but with some coffee and a great playlist (or Netflix) in the background, it’s not terrible.
THREE // Create a System (With Filters & Labels)
My system is pretty simple. I have filters set up to automatically sort and label emails as they come in. Mashable explains how to set up automatic labels really nicely. (Highly recommended!) The labels for me are just an easier way to see right away what I’m working with.
My BIGGEST system is “starring” emails. If I read an email and there’s no response necessary, then I just read it and move on. If I read it and know that it will need a response, I add a “star” on gmail. This is fabulous because it marks the email as read (oh how I hate having unread emails), but also stores it in a safe folder to respond to.
My starred folder turns into my to-do list pretty much. It also lets me know just how on schedule (or behind) I am for my goal of a clean inbox!
FOUR // Unsubscribe
Again, my inbox is my temple. Whenever I get an email campaign that clutters my inbox (a retailer, a weird mailing list, or something that I didn’t sign up for), I unsubscribe. Immediately! I have a separate email account for retail emails that I actually want to receive (Rue La La, Gilt, and Tuckernuck pretty much!). But other than that… I don’t want it!!! I get too many emails and campaigns just end up being clutter or more stress.
FIVE // Hop on the Phone
If it seems like and email requires some back and forth, I schedule a phone call. All questions can be asked right away and there’s not delay. We can get to the bottom of everything without anyone getting confused or running the risk of losing an email. Talking on the phone is so much easier. Even though I sometimes get awkward on the phone, it really does cut down on email clutter and confusion. Plus, I love taking my phone calls while walking around the block– such an improvement from sitting at a desk!
What are your tactics for keeping up with emails? Any tips or tricks I should know?