No matter what job you have, if it involves a computer or mobile device, then email will play a major part. It's one of those certainties of life really. Every day, there will be new arrivals that need to be read and replied to immediately. Ultimately, it means that most of our time is spent hopping forward and back between our normal tasks and email, breaking our concentration and making us less productive.
If you're just trying to keep your head above water, or you're one of the hundreds of thousands of people waiting to get Mailbox, there are numerous ways to make things easier for yourself and turn your inbox from something you dread into something more manageable.
Don't Make Email Your First Task
It can be depressing to start your Monday morning by opening your inbox to see a large number of unread email. For the most part, it can make you start the day off negatively as you attempt to answer everyone first before starting your work properly. In most cases, doing this sets a bad precedent for the rest of the day psychologically as if you spend an hour you've less time to get your regular work done. Even if you just scan your mail and leave it until later, it will just weigh in on the back of your mind. On top of that, you will will have more to respond to later on in the day meaning that your workload increases anyway.
What's important and what takes priority are two different things. Just because your inbox says you have twenty unread messages doesn't mean you have to respond to them straight away. Only in the rare cases will you get an email that requires an immediate response so unless this is a regular occurrence, you should be able to postpone checking them until later that day.
Of course, whether you can afford to do this will depend on what type of industry you work in, but you should know by now when the first batch of mail will arrive. If you can, spend the first hour of your day, if not the first half an hour, concentrating on your original tasks before opening your inbox. Starting the day like this will put you in a better frame of mind when you begin looking through your inbox.
Categorise Your Mail
In certain cases, you can mark certain email as important, but you can take it a step further and create categories if keeping on top of things becomes difficult. Start off by creating three or four specialised groups to help organise your mail, but only do this if these categories are going to be regularly populated, otherwise you will be creating numerous tags only to group one or two different email together. You can also automatically categorise certain email addresses by selecting it and applying a filter to it, either by adding a label or moving it to a certain folder.
Unless you end up referring back to old mail repetitively, it's probably better to star or mark them as important instead for future reference.
Also, in Gmail, you can add additional starred symbols to your repertoire if colour coding works better. There are twelve different symbols to use at any one time and you can cycle through them by clicking on the star icon beside each mail repetitively.
Allocate Regular Times To Answer Mail
One of the worst things about email is that you will always have it open and every mail that arrives, you will feel the need to check and answer each one. Doing this can break your concentration as your mind shifts from one task to another and then back again. Instead, allocate certain times throughout the day for you to check your mail and respond. Again, you should know from experience how often you get time sensitive mail so think about that first before you start allocating times.
Start Off Small & Work Your Way Up
Regardless of what time you choose to look at your inbox, it's normally better to scan through your subject lines first before doing anything. Normally, there are three types of email that you will receive:
(a) Unimportant: Email that don't need to be replied to (e.g.: notifications, updates, etc.)
(b) Quick: Email that would take only a moment to reply to.
(c) Important: Email that would require a more considered response.
It's normally better to leave the important ones until last and start with the quick ones first. If an email only requires a few moments to reply to, then don't put it off, answer it and get it out of the way asap. Write short and snappy responses and don't spend too long thinking about it. Doing this will give you some momentum and also provides you with time to think up a response for any important email that you have received. Answering them in batches is the key as answering them one by one breaks up the flow and disrupts your work pattern.
Format Your Inbox
If you have Gmail, you can format your inbox so that it prioritises certain types of mail. If you hover over Inbox, a downward facing arrow will appear, allowing you to format your inbox. There are four different options: Important places those that you or Gmail has tagged at the top of your pile, unread and starred are rather self-explanatory, and priority splits up your Inbox into three different sections, putting the important and unread first, starred second and the rest of your inbox third.
If you switch to any of these modes, you will only be able to see the last 50 email you received at best. You won't be able to explore your archives unless you revert back to the original mode or use search.
Delete, Delete, Delete
We're normally programmed to keep all mail just in case we might have to refer back to it. However, only half of mail received will be relevant to us and an even smaller percentage we'll refer to later on. Deleting mail is better if you're regularly sent attachments as you will want to free up space for new files and attachments coming in.
Turn Off Notification Mail
Every, and we mean every, social media site sends out notification email. Some do it sparingly while others send them on a regular basis. Chances are you get a lot of them, and if you're on a site regularly, it's likely that you already know what they're about before they arrive.
Go into settings on any site you're receiving notifications from and untick all or any of the sections you're not interested in. Doing so will make your mailbox that little bit quieter and give you less to scan over when you load up your mail.
Check Your Spam Folder Regularly
No spam filter is perfect and while one or two spam mails might make their way into your inbox, the opposite is also true. Have a quick scan of it to see if any normal mail accidentally made its way into it. If you don't see anything that could be described as important, you can just delete them all. While they delete in 30 days, they can take up space so you're better off just deleting them regularly.
Close It When You Need To Focus
When you're not replying or reading mail, close it and concentrate on other tasks. Otherwise, that tab is going to be at the back of your mind, and you will be glancing at it regularly as you work. You don't need to be told that waiting for mail to arrive is just as distracting so save yourself the trouble and close it when you get the chance. You will feel better for it.
comments powered by