It's essential to use the right technology solutions to manage email traffic and communicate effectively. With the wider engagement of emails as a communication option, more companies are sourcing for better platforms for Communication that will best suit their employee needs and ease email management processes.
However, individual users need to adopt habits and strategies to help themselves improve. Effective email management best practices at work rely partly on user habits and partly on adopting effective tools.
Here are some practices, simple and straightforward, to help you, the individual manage your email, in a shorter time, getting more done, etc.
Skim and digest later.
Go through each email long enough (30 seconds tops) to determine the action you need to follow-up on it with. To spend more time on it later without having to open your email account again, you can save the email with any attachments that come with it using MxHero, a Microsoft Outlook add-in, designed to make your email management 100 times easier.
Attach first, Address next, Caption last.
This simple hack helps you make sure you leave nothing of importance out of your correspondence. Many emails are either wrongly addressed or without the necessary attachments included in them. Put first things first this way and spend less time cross-checking your mails.
Schedule your Declutter.
Over the week your email inbox might be filled with a lot of emails. Hence make sure to keep aside a few minutes every day to clean up your inbox. If you don't schedule a particular time, the clean up task often gets delayed. You can set a calendar reminder to notify yourself for the task.
Internal Communication should maximize virtual space technologies (Slack, Asana, etc.)
Virtual co-working spaces like Slack, Trello and Asana keep work conversations with fellow employees on one platform freeing up space in your inbox. MxHero can also help you save important emails from clients or line managers and share it with members of your team as opposed to cumbersome group emails.
Turn off Notifications.
We'd recommend you to turn off email notifications if you've turned it on, either on your browser, mobile or email client. According to a study from the University of California - "After a notification has forced us to switch between tasks, it can take us about 23 minutes to get back to the task at hand". Hence it's better to turn off your email notifications. Talking about an effective email management practice, just put your devices on a silent profile.
Work time, Email time - two different times.
Scheduling cannot be overemphasized and making a habit of focusing on work when it's work time and concentrating on emails at email times increases your productivity. It frees you from any mental stress or pressures you'd otherwise have felt if you tried to juggle everything at the same time.
Organize your inbox with labels, folders and categories.
Prioritize, group, filter and sort emails into categories to create an organized inbox. The more refined this process is, the easier it will be to locate important and specific emails at the time of need. There is no universal rule that applies to the creation of categories. Every person is different and responds according to their personal preferences. For example, you can have a Meetings folder if you hold many meetings, etc.
Only Handle It Once method.
Coming back to the same email over and over again is bound to waste a lot of time. So you touch it once, take whatever action needs to be made, close it and move on to the next priority. Respond, Delete, Delegate, note a Task to perform, anything you need to do to handle an email once you open it, preferably under a minute.
Flag emails that need some 'TLC'.
For emails that need more time than just a minute to deal with, highlight them by putting a star on them, mark them as unread, or set on snooze.
Disable social media email notifications.
Social media is a lot of work. You really don't need to know who commented on what photo on Facebook or who did what on Twitter, at least not immediately. If every little thing that goes on in your social media feed invades your inbox, it ends up creating thousands of unread emails. And we both know you'd never read them. Therefore, unsubscribe from receiving emails from your social media apps, and for other apps that deliver unnecessary emails to your inbox.
Deal appropriately with group emails.
If you're tagged in group emails (example all those birthday emails you get on your company inbox), at your work or school, make sure to create a filter to assign it to a specific folder. These emails are usually not very important or time-critical & hence it's better it doesn't show up in the primary inbox. Trust me that checking these emails is the last of your priorities.
Reuse sent messages.
We all have those emails that we send over and over. Strip the "Re:" part in the subject line, update the details in the body, and press send.
In today's working world, you are responsible for managing your own work time and output. Build personal, social, and technological systems that support your productivity, and reduce time and attention spent on distractions and unnecessary Communication.
Following these email management practices can save time, preserve the quality of your work, increase the quality of your Communication, ease follow-up and reduce forgotten tasks, and make you a happier person.