By: Anne Dewvall.
Move over staff meetings, email has taken the crown for time wasting. Many people spend several hours a day just emailing (raise your hand if you’re guilty!) and this form of communication is increasingly getting the evil eye from productivity experts. While email can be a useful tool, like so many other inventions, it can turn into just the opposite when wielded incorrectly.
Keeping your inbox organized is step one in the fight to regain control of your email. Here are a few of our best tips to whip your inbox into shape:
1.) Use folders. This may sound like a no-brainer, but we bet if you use folders, you don’t use them enough. Create folders for important clients, projects, and subcategories and file your correspondence religiously. After all, having folders is useless unless you spend the time to file your messages in them. A place for everything and everything in its place.
2.) Color code, label, prioritize. Every email system offers some type of method to further sort your emails. Gmail allows you to flag important messages, assign labels (this is different than folders!), and mark as important. If you’re an email hoarder, these labels are especially important because they will help you locate relevant messages more effectively when searching.
3.) Archive. Can’t bear to part with your messages? There’s a good chance the 2,000 “important” messages floating in your inbox don’t need to be in front of your face every day. Gmail users can archive messages, storing them for later retrieval but putting them out of sight. Think of archiving as a self-storage unit for your email correspondence.
4.) Use multiple addresses. Email forwarding makes it easy to corral messages in one spot. Consider using separate email addresses for separate types of email activity, like one email address for promotions and coupons. Then, you can direct all messages sent to a particular address into a specific folder, minimizing clutter and keeping your inbox streamlined. There’s no need to let your inbox fill with the digital equivalent of junk mail.
5.) Minimize. The best way to organize is to minimize what you have to organize. Start using that delete key. Chances are, most of your emails can go. Then, it will be easier to find important information among the surviving messages. Do you really need to keep that Pottery Barn discount from last October? Delete, delete, delete.
6.) Discipline. Once you have a system, use it. Treat email like a dedicated task instead of a compulsion. Many of us are guilty of obsessively refreshing our inboxes or responding to each message as it arrives. This is not only inefficient (and often stressful!) it leads to bad behavior. Set aside structured time for responding, cleaning out, and archiving emails. This doesn’t have to be a chore. Even spending just 15 minutes a week organizing your inbox will reap rewards.
Attaining the utopian state of “inbox zero” may be a pipe dream for most of us, but following a few simple steps can help you improve your inbox and maximize your email efficiency.