How many emails do you get a day? How much time do you spend checking them? And how many do you never, ever get to read?
That alone cal tell you how incredibly difficult it can be to manage emails. While these are supposed to increase productivity, for most of us, it actually wastes our time. Here are some life tips on how to take charge of your inbox and create an email system that actually works—without wasting a single unnecessary minute of your time.
Life tip # 1: Reading emails is not the same as using emails
Email is a tool, reading email is a habit. There’s a huge gap there. You can absentmindedly click on your inbox every few minutes, or spend more time reading and replying to emails than actually getting the job done. You may even use emails to avoid doing tasks we dread. It gives us a sense of false productivity.
So it’s not enough to check your emails. You have to read your inbox with a particular mindset: everything I read must lead to an action. You can keep these questions in mind.
a. Which emails do I need to address now?
b. What action should I take after reading this email?
c. What’s the best way to perform that action?
d. Do I forward this email to someone who can do it?
e. Do I compose a reply or is it faster to call up the person or schedule a meeting?
Life tip # 2: Check emails at a specific time each day.
Don’t keep your email window open. Set a schedule, ideally in the mid-afternoon when you’re most likely to have an energy slump anyway and won’t have the energy for more strenuous mental tasks.
Let people know that you only check emails at that specific time. They must notify you via text messaging or through your secretary or staff if there is something that is time-sensitive. If that isn’t possible, you can check more frequently, but still at a specific time.
Life tip # 3: Use the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule states that 80% of the results are generated from 20% of the tasks or inputs. Prioritize the emails that will generate the most results. These can include those sent by your biggest clients, or those that are related to sales leads or business opportunities, or come from the department that generates the biggest profit margin.
For the other emails, move them to a folder that’s labeled ‘reply in 3 days.’ Check that folder on particular days (like Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). There are many emails that don’t need any reply at all.
Life tip # 4: Set up a different email account for newsletters.
Set up an email account just for signing up to newsletters, blogs, and interesting websites. Don’t use your personal or work account so these updates don’t drown out important letters from colleagues or friends and family.
Life tip # 5: Use the folders system for archiving.
After a while your inbox will be filled with millions of emails, and you’ll never be able to find the one you actually need! Avoid this by setting up a folder system. For example, your work email can have folders like ‘Sales’ and ‘Suppliers’ and your personal email can have folders like ‘Relatives’ and ‘College Friends.’
Life tip # 6: Give yourself only one minute to decide what to do
Train yourself to decide on an action within one minute of reading an email. Forward it? Delete it? Act on it now or move to the 3-day folder? It’s the only way to be able to deal with the huge amounts of email you get in a day.
Photo from sayiamgreen.com