Inbox management is necessary in a world where millions of emails are sent daily. Email is a great way for people to communicate, so many organizations rely on email for internal and customer-facing activities. But keeping it all organized and responding to emails in a timely manner is easier said than done.
If you find yourself checking your business email 30+ times per day, spending countless hours each week replying to messages, and getting little done during the work day, then you need to check out these proven tips and email management strategies for professionals.
What is email management?
Email management is the practice of checking, responding, and organizing emails for optimal productivity.
Email management is crucial for businesses of all kinds. It keeps you in timely contact with vendors and provides a marketing channel through which nearly everyone can be reached. It also helps improve customer relations, allowing for more authentic exchanges, and lets you respond to the most important messages first. Considering the fact that 90% of consumers check online reviews before buying from a business, you can’t afford to alienate potential customers by keeping them waiting.
Proven tips for email management:
A recent survey revealed that 69% of American workers check their business emails when not at work, and 79% even check their email inbox on vacation. If this sounds like you, it indicates you can benefit from a better email inbox management strategy.
There are many different email tools and add-ons that workers can use to keep their inboxes tidy, as well as email management best practices at work to refine your email management strategies.
1) Schedule time for email management on a daily basis
While it may be tempting to check your email every time you receive a new notification, it’s actually counterproductive. A better way to manage email is to schedule specific times of day for checking and responding to emails. That way, your whole day isn’t dominated by emails, and you can focus on getting more work done.
It’s also important to ensure that you aren’t multitasking during this time to get through as many emails as possible within your allocated time frame. And while some emails may be time-sensitive, remember that if anything is truly pressing, you will likely receive a phone call.
With this method, you can ensure that your emails are handled promptly while also maintaining your workload.
2) Create labels and folders to categorize the emails
The key to email management is organization. To streamline your email workflow, you can create labels and folders to categorize emails. Structuring your emails into categories helps you maintain focus without having to switch gears mentally with each email message. It also helps keep everything organized so that it’s easy to find the messages you need in the future.
Start by deciding on a naming system that is relevant to your tasks and easy to identify. You could categorize emails by department, project, sender, or another naming system that works for you. Then, you can use the hierarchy system or nested labels in Gmail to further organize emails into subcategories.
For example, let’s say that you have a category for emails titled “Personnel.” Depending on your responsibilities, you may have subcategories within that folder dividing personnel by their department, roles, or current projects. The goal is to make your emails easy to identify and find when needed.
3) Delete unnecessary emails
The average professional receives more than 120 new emails each day, but most of them don’t even warrant a response. How often do you find yourself distracted by an unnecessary promotional email, email chain, or informal internal thread? If you can reduce the number of unnecessary emails you read, you can easily reduce your workload to the quarter of emails that actually need a response.
Unsubscribe from newsletters or send them to a dedicated folder separate from your work email. Funnel internal communications, business-related subscriptions, and B2B promotions to their respective inboxes. And go through your emails at the start of the day and do a mass delete of irrelevant emails.
Set your email provider to automatically archive emails into different folders. That way, you don’t waste time opening emails multiple times or dragging them to their appropriate locations. For example, invoicing emails are automatically routed into the accounting folder, stakeholder emails are sent to their appropriate project folder, and blogs and subscriptions are sent to the newsletters folder.
4) Set Limited time for working with your email inbox
In addition to setting aside specific times of the work day for email management, it’s helpful to also work with emails for only a set amount of time. If you plan to check your email at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm, but it takes you two hours to get through your inbox, you’re not really saving any time. A better way to manage your email inbox is to use the one-minute rule for each email.
The one-minute rule helps workers clear large amounts of emails in a short period. When you only have one minute per email, your brain will focus on the important information so that you can either reply or archive the email as quickly as possible.
If you come across an email that will take more than one minute to respond to, archive it and return to it after you’ve gone through the easy emails. And don’t feel obligated to write a lengthy response. Be courteous but deliver your point succinctly, within one minute or less if possible.
5) important emails
While you’re going through your email inbox, deleting unnecessary emails, and rapidly archiving the ones that don’t require a response, you should also be flagging emails that you need to return to.
Not all emails can be resolved within a minute or less, and more important messages will need to be addressed sooner rather than later. If you come across any emails you don’t have time for, flag them and return to them when you can dedicate the appropriate time to your response.
This is effective because it does not disturb your email inbox management workflow so that you can clear out emails more quickly, and it helps you make better decisions since you will be more focused on emails that are starred or flagged.
Make time to respond to important emails once per day, and give yourself extra time at the end of the week to tie up any loose ends before the weekend. Then, you can return to work on Monday with less carry-over from the previous week. Another way to prioritize important emails is to create a series of “Reply by [date]” folders to stay on top of timelines and give senders a timely response.
6) Unsubscribe from promotional emails/email chains
We’ve all signed up for subscription emails that we swore were important then, only to never open a single email from that blog or newsletter. Don’t let these emails take up unnecessary space in your inbox. Unsubscribe from content you don’t read that often, and remove yourself from conversations and email chains that waste your time.
Some people are afraid to unsubscribe in case a compelling article comes out, relevant news is delivered, or handy tips get sent every so often. Evaluate how often you read emails from these subscriptions, and ruthlessly unsubscribe from irrelevant and counterproductive content that distracts you from more important emails.
7) Create mini emails/ multiple inboxes
Another way to organize your email inbox more effectively is to use more than one email account for various types of emails. A separate email account for online shopping, confirmation emails, and credit card reminders helps prevent clogging up your business email with things better suited for a personal email account.
Plus, emails of this type often do not require a response and are for informational purposes only. This makes them perfect candidates for automatic routing to a specific folder or category or a different inbox altogether.
Most email providers make connecting your email accounts easy so you can navigate between inboxes seamlessly. Some also offer tools to create email alias accounts connected to your business email account for less important email categories.
8) Apply email tools and add-ons
There are plenty of email tools and add-ons available to make managing your email inbox less stressful and complicated. For example, if you find that you send similar email messages time and time again, then you can create templates for repetitive responses. This can help you save a lot of time over the day. Instead of having to type out each email individually, templates are as easy as copy, paste, customize, and send.
Each email provider offers different tools to manage emails. Here are some examples of popular email providers and the email management tools they offer:
Gmail accounts for about 67% of all email users and is one of the biggest email providers in the world. In addition to their wide collection of basic email tools, Google also offers an array of beta tools under Gmail Labs that you can use as they suit your needs. And Gmail makes it easy to combine multiple inboxes and even SMS for greater functionality.
Some other tools include filtering emails into spam or promotions, setting expiration dates on sensitive emails, integrated rights management, two-factor authentication per message, and more.
Outlook, previously known as Hotmail, is another popular email platform with built-in tools to help manage your email inbox more effectively. Integrate your mobile calendars, roll over old email accounts, and set up distribution lists, all with a user-friendly platform.
Outlook also allows users to quickly drop canned text into the body of an email using Quick Parts. And you can also enjoy features like scheduled emails, automatic forwarding and replies, encryption, and other third-party add-ons.
c) Yahoo Mail
Yahoo is dying out as an email provider, but many small businesses and organizations still use it to manage their business email accounts. The consensus among professionals is to get rid of Yahoo Mail and switch to Gmail or Outlook for your work email address. While the other providers offer more tools and integrations, they also offer better security features crucial for business purposes.
However, the company recently released a new email platform called Yahoo Mail Pro, an ad-free email experience with customer support.
9) Use sorting filters for the inbox
Sorting filters automatically sort your emails into their appropriate folders and email categories when they are received. Instead of hand sorting each email into their respective folder only to be reopened a second or third time later, email sorting takes care of this process for you.
Not only does this improve productivity by shortening the time spent managing your email inbox, but it also keeps your email inbox organized without having to organize emails each day manually. You can create filters for several terms and actions. All you need to know to create an effective email sorting filter is which term you want your email provider to look for and what action you want to take after that term is identified.
For example, you can set a filter to sort emails that include the term “ASAP” into a priority folder. Or any emails sent from a certain sender receive an automatic response. This minimizes the number of administrative actions professionals need to take to organize their business emails better.
10) Create various templates for similar emails
You can also create various email templates for similar emails that you often send according to your roles and responsibilities. Take a look at your sent folder, and you’ll probably find a few trends in the emails you reply to and the information you send out. Once you’ve identified those types of emails you normally send, you can use them to create email templates you can use over and over again.
Here are a few examples of types of email templates you can use:
- Thank you mail
- Out-of-office emails
- Requests for certain items or information
- Speaking Inquiries
There are many ways to manage your email inbox so that you can spend less time on emails and more time getting work done. Allocate time to manage your inbox, unsubscribe from useless subscriptions, and use templates wherever possible. Keep in mind the one-minute rule, and apply email tools and add-ons offered by your provider. Try out some of these proven email management tips today to develop an email management strategy that works best for you.