It’s hard to remember a time before email – but even though I’m not that old (in my 30s cough!!) I do! My first job was as a Saturday girl for an insurance brokers – we had one computer in the office for quotes and everything else was done on paper! I didn’t get my first email account until 1999 when I started University and even then I didn’t really start using it.
By the time I got my second job – a summer placement at an exam board – email was well and truly established and so began the onslaught of everything coming to me via email message – whatever happened to talking to people!
As my career progressed, I felt that more and more was done electronically with less communication in person and with this began the need to find ways to manage my inbox so that it didn’t overwhelm me.
Over the years I’ve used lots of different tools and so this blog is all about sharing the top tips I’ve learnt along the way.
Tip 1: The Two-minute Rule
Use the two-minute rule when reading through your emails, ask yourself – ‘Can I deal with this in two minutes?‘ – if the answer is yes then deal with it there and then, file it and move on – this also applies to emails that actually need to be sent to someone else forward them on so they are out of your inbox.
For all those that you answer no to use the other tips below and make sure that if they require action they are added to your ‘to do’ list or task manager.
Tip 2: Utilise your email client tools
Most email clients will give you the option to flag, file (more on filing emails in tip 3) and categorise messages – using these can help you feel like you are more in control of the messages coming into you.
Flags – if you can always add a reminder date – or add to your task manager so you don’t miss them
Categories – I use these to identify which clients my emails are from, or what type of action they require – be creative and use the categories that are most meaningful for you.
Don’t forget to add anything that needs action to your ‘to do’ list or task manager.
Tip 3: File your emails
Do you leave your emails in your inbox after you have dealt with them? Do you leave them there to remind you to deal with them? Both of these practices just result in your inbox growing and you will probably find that you forget what is at the bottom of the list!
I always move every email I’ve read out of my inbox into the appropriate folder for it as follows:
Action – all emails that require me to perform an action on them – these are also added to my to do list
For information – a folder for emails I need to read but haven’t had chance to yet – again these are added to my to do list
Follow up – emails I’ve dealt with that I need to review at a later date – again also added to my to do list
All other emails that I’ve read, actioned or are effectively ‘closed’ are filed in my email filing system so that I have them on record if I need them in the future.
Tip 4: Check your email at set times during the day
How many of you keep your email open all the time and open new emails the minute they pop up on your screen? I too am guilty of this at times.
Have you considered having set email times during the day? ‘I couldn’t possibly do that‘ I hear you say – but why not? Do you regularly get emails that are so urgent they need responding to immediately?
If you set an out of office that is on all the time, thanking the sender for their email and advising that if the content is urgent they should call you then not only are you are adding a more personal touch but you will cover yourself if there is something urgent.
No go ahead and set yourself set times of the day to check your emails – I find half an hour first thing, half an hour at lunch and half an hour at the end of they day are great times for this.
I hope that these tips have been useful to you, please do comment below with any of your own tips, let me know how you get on with these, or share your pre-email working stories as I’d love to hear them.