Emails have become such an integral part of business communication that it is virtually impossible for you to go to work without checking your inbox at least once a day.
Email is an indispensable aspect of professional culture —which means so is managing your inbox. Don’t get buried in emails and lose time you could have spent doing more important things.
If you want to keep your inbox clean and be as productive as possible, here are four email management best practices you need to follow.
Organize your emails
You receive a ton of emails each day. At any point, your inbox can contain work updates, company news, meeting reminders, reports from the different departments you work with, and even newsletters from brands you subscribe to.
Over time, the sheer number and variety of emails you receive can leave your inbox in a state of disarray.
This is why you need to organize your emails. It helps you prevent your inbox from getting too cluttered to the point that it becomes a barrier to your productivity.
One of the best ways to organize your emails is by adding folders, which are also called “labels” by some email clients (such as Gmail). All email clients have this feature, so it’s very easy to do.
The names for your folders will depend on the work you do as well as the type of emails you receive. You can use labels such as:
- Pending Projects
- Important Updates
- Upcoming Events
- Non-work emails
You don’t have to think hard about the names of your folders. Just keep them as simple as possible.
Create your own productivity system
Now that you’ve organized your emails into specific folders, you can create a productivity system that coincides with your already established folders. Doing so will turn your inbox into a highly organized to-do list.
Since you already have your emails organized into folders, you can further organize them depending on the email’s level of urgency.
For example, if you have a folder for “Pending Projects,” you can arrange them into sub-folders with labels like “Due Today” or “Due in X Days.” For emails that you need to respond to, you can use sub-folders like “Urgent Response Needed” or “Respond in 24 hours.”
Feel free to experiment with your productivity system to find out what works for you. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong. As long as it helps you keep your inbox clean and reminds you of the things you need to do on a daily basis, then it’s a good system.
Save time with canned responses
Regardless of what type of work you do, there is definitely a part of your job that you do repeatedly, every single day. This can be anything from sending end-of-day reports to answering client inquiries.
Don’t let these repetitive tasks cut down on your productive time. Take advantage of canned responses and create templates for emails that you send on a regular basis.
For instance, as the head of your team, let’s say you’re responsible for keeping track of each team member’s productivity, sending a daily productivity report to your manager. Instead of writing the same exact email each day, create a canned response and save it as your “Productivity Report” template.
Keep to a strict schedule for checking emails
According to a study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, the average professional spends 28% of their week checking emails.
To put it into perspective, here’s a scenario:
Say you had a regular 40-hour, five-day work week. This means you spent a little over 11 hours a week, or almost two hours and 15 minutes a day just checking emails.
Spending more than two hours checking emails every day is not only unnecessary — it is also detrimental to your productivity. You could be spending that time doing more important tasks.
Remedy this by adhering to a strict daily schedule for checking your emails.
You can read and reply to emails as soon as you get to work in the morning, a few minutes before you leave for home, or both. Discover the pace you need to set and find a routine that works for you.
To ensure that you’re able to respond to each and every email, keep your emails short. The people who read your emails are likely also busy people, so they don’t have the luxury of reading lengthy emails. Two to three sentences per email is sufficient to clearly get your message across.
Keep these best practices in mind when you open email at work. In fact, you can even start trying them out right now. Once you master these simple yet effective email management techniques, you’ll spend less and less time on emails and have more time to focus on completing your other tasks.
**About the Author: Michelle Amio is a Demand Gen Coordinator at Campaign Monitor.