Does opening your inbox fill you with dread? Use these tips to get your email under control.
Email is an amazing resource that is supposed to save us time and energy—but one study found that 28 percent of our time at work is spent wrangling emails. In fact, taking away emails altogether for five days reduced stress. Whether it’s because of the mental load of your thousands of unread emails or getting thrown off-task every five minutes to respond to a request, email can be a time waster.
Try these six tips to get back on track:
1. Stop checking your email.
Turn off those desktop notifications, silence your phone alerts, and step away from the inbox. Pick three times a day to manage your email notifications, and block out this time to only handle emails—it will significantly reduce your stress and allow you to take the time to address any action items in your inbox rather than just dashing off a quick reply.
2. Stop sending emails.
Do you really need to send an email to a coworker who is across the hall or down the cube row? Take the time to stretch your legs and talk face-to-face. If you need to talk to someone farther away, picking up the phone is sometimes a better option. As you’re updating your site, keep these tips from Google in mind.
3. Send better emails.
Put the vital information in the first line or two of your email, or even in the subject line. Try to stick to 150 words or less, and always double and triple proofread before sending. Consider keeping an email template handy if you send out similar emails on a regular basis. Just remember to proofread to make sure none of the template-language goes uncustomized.
4. Use folders.
Folders or tags are a great way to sort your emails. No matter how simple or multifaceted your organization, place time-sensitive tasks in an “Action Items” folder to make sure those items don’t fall through the cracks. If you have a more complex folder system, using automatic rules or filters sends incoming emails directly into those folders—eliminating the mental task of sorting emails by taking two minutes to set a rule.
5. Get good at searching.
Falling behind on your filing system? Most email search functions can help you find any email you want. In Gmail, you can search a wide range of parameters, including only emails with attachments, only in a certain date range, or only sent by certain people. Keep a cheat sheet of common search parameters for your email service close at hand so you can find what you need, when you need it.
6. Get cold-blooded about unsubscribing.
Don’t allow unread newsletters, coupons, advertisements, and news digests to clutter your inbox. Use an organization tool like Unroll.me to aggregate all of your subscriptions into a daily digest. Bonus: They make unsubscribing super easy.
Need more ways to save time and work smarter?