Having an overflowing inbox is something I am all too familiar with, and trust me it’s taken a while to really drill down on how to deal with it. But it wasn’t actually that difficult to sort out.
That’s why I wanted to share my top tips on how you can effectively tame that busy inbox and increase your efficiency at work.
Set aside time to go through emails
Don’t leave your emails open all day. Those annoying beeps you get every time you receive an email can interrupt you and leave you unfocused. I would recommend spending your first 30 mins – 1 hour of work checking and responding to emails. Then do this again before or after lunch, and once more before you log off for the day.
Another great tip I’ve used more than once is if you’ve got a busy day ahead of you in which you really need to focus, set an ‘out of office’ alert saying that you will respond to all emails as soon as you’re available. It’s good to set a time frame, so people know that they will get a reply.
Here’s a great example of an ‘out of office’ alert:
Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to emails twice a day at 1pm and 4pm. If you require urgent assistance that cannot wait, please give me a call on XXXXX.
Take action straight away
Reply to important emails straight away, and if there’s an action required from you, make sure these actions are added to your to-do lists and prioritised. You don’t want to let tasks be forgotten about.
When you check your emails, delete spam and promotional emails that you don’t need straight away. This will give you a great sense of accomplishment when you see the number of unread emails go down. Then select messages that don’t require a response or an action and delete/archive them. Once you’ve removed emails that you don’t need, you’ll be able to figure out which emails you should prioritise.
Don’t let important emails sit in your inbox for too long. Unless you’re on annual leave, make sure you respond to emails within 48 hours, but ideally straight away. If you’re unable to respond immediately, communicate to the sender that you received the message and will be in touch.
Organise your inbox with folders
Although a majority of emails can be deleted once dealt with, you’ll most likely want to keep important emails. Email threads between clients and colleagues can help clarify any miscommunications, if they arise. Most email programs will let you create folders and rules to keep you organised.
The better your folders, the easier it will be to locate emails when you need them. Create parent folders for broader subjects, such as:
Then you can use sub-folders to file emails that are more specific.
Once you’ve spent some time creating these folders, the process will be pretty quick going forward. You can even create rules (on most email programs) so that emails with specific subject lines/senders will automatically go into these folders.
Unsubscribe from promotional or spam emails
These types of emails can overwhelm your inbox and bury important messages, it’s time to clear out the clutter. Unsubscribe from any junk, spam or unwanted promotional emails from shops and other businesses etc.
This will really help when it comes to sorting your emails out as you’ll have a lot less emails to riffle through.
Having a clear, organised inbox will really help with your focus, prioritising and efficiency at work. Like they say, “tidy inbox, tidy mind”… I’m sure that’s the saying!