Managing emails, especially when you receive 50-100 per day, can be hard and can slow down your productivity.
Here are some tips to help you with that:
1. Plan your email checkups
First thing’s first: you must avoid checking your mails ‘live’ as if you were chatting. Emails are meant to send information to someone and expect an answer in a reasonable amount of time. If you expect an answer right away, pick up the phone or use a chat.
If you are always looking at your mails, here is what it does to your productivity:
- You interrupt what you are doing every 5 minutes, therefore, you will have a hard finishing your tasks on time or within the amount of time you initially planned to spend on them.
- Since you should be doing something else while checking your mails, you will nut be focused and only quickly scan the mails. The result is you will tend to neglect to answer or store them appropriately.
- At the end of the day, you will have accomplished nothing and yet have spent 8 hours at the office. So what happens? Overtime!
- Some may go as far as looking at their emails during meetings, which is a complete lack of respect for everyone, it will of course make you miss all the important information that is being said, and it prevents you from contributing.
2. The inbox is for unread mails only
How I have seen so many inboxes with over 500 old mails and it’s funny to see people painfully look for specific mails amongst this accumulated mess! It’s also those people that I know will not answer half my mails so I make sure to plan follow ups 🙂
The inbox should only be for unread mails, nothing else. See the next tip to help you with that.
3. There are 3 types of emails
You may receive 100 mails today, but they can ALL be categorized into 3 types while you are going through all your inbox:
- Actionable emails: A mail that requires you do to something or to reply. Those are the mails you want to store in a ‘TO DO’ folder so you can come back to review and complete those actions (or delegate). By doing so, you make sure you miss nothing. For GTD fans, you may want to use the 2 minute rule here, meaning any action/reply that require 2 minutes or less must be done right away.
- Information emails: Emails that require nothing of you, but that contain important information about something (ex. About a project). Those mails must be stored inside folders separated by projects (or other folder hierarchy). They will be out of your way but easily found when you need the information.
- Junk emails: Any mail that is not in the first two categories is useless, so delete it.
The end of emails?
I’m reading more and more articles on people trying to stop using mails, instead, they use project management interfaces for all communications, including with the client. I have not tried it myself, but I’m curious to hear feedback from others have you tried it!