Email is an important communication tool in business. Emails are convenient for liaising with both customers and clients but when used inappropriately can hinder productivity. According research by McKinsey Global Institute, more than a quarter of the average workers day is spent on attending to emails. If you’re like me you probably get a lot of emails and it is extremely time consuming to organise them.
There are 4 tips I’ve used throughout my professional and blogging career to organise emails better and keep me sane over the years. Even if you don’t receive a lot of emails these tips will help you mange better:
Take immediate action
Don’t delay till after lunch or the next morning, what can be done now. This will really help keep your mailbox under control. Whenever you open your inbox scan for emails you can immediately attend to. I have a personal rule that I respond to all emails within the same working day if I receive them before 4pm and anything after that will be attended to the next morning. If you really cannot action the email, let the sender know that you have received it and give them a timeframe by which you will respond, this will minimise duplicate emails.
Create folders and categories
Sometimes I need to keep certain emails for future correspondence and to make it easy for me to refer to in the future I have different folders and categories in my mailbox. A folder for HR/ Admin can be used to keep important information such as leave dates, internal communication, salary slips etc. I also have rules in place so that emails from specific people will automatically be received in the relevant folders. Setting rules and organising emails into relevant folders ensures that I never miss out on important emails. Keeping a operate folder for emails from my directors, for example, allows me to quickly attend to them and act urgently rather than going through my entire inbox. You can set different kind of rules using outlook; based on sender or even subjects.
Flag emails to keep track
I try to action every email as I receive it to avoid emails building up however when I’m not able to action it immediately, i’ll flag it so that I can remember to come back to it later. I usually use the last hour of my working day to go through ‘admin’ related tasks including going through my inbox and checking on all the emails I’ve flagged throughout the day. Doing this helps me to clear all the days emails and I know when I return to work the next morning I’ll be attending to new emails.
Have a plan for when you are away
Depending on your type of job and the company you work for, how you handle your emails when you’re away may differ. I’ve worked in a company in which I set automatic out of office replies and indicate who the sender can liaise with however in my current job I don’t set any replies but reassign all my emails to a colleague so that as they come in he/she will receive them and can action on my behalf. You definitely want to do something and not just leave the emails to pile up whilst you’re away as this will negatively impact your business if the emails are from external stakeholders and make you miss deadlines too.
Mailbox clean up
The worst feeling ever is returning to work after a holiday and have to deal with hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of emails. If you have used the automatic out of office replies or reassigned your emails to a colleague whilst you were away then you can use the mailbox clean up feature in outlook to automatically filter and delete unwanted emails, leaving you with only the necessary ones.
I hope these tips will make it easier for you to stay on top of your email management and reduce the amount of time you spend sorting them out. Do you receive a lot of emails too, how do you manage them?