Keeping in control of your inbox is critical. Letting emails run wild and unchecked can cause a lot of confusion when it’s time to answer them, but at the same time, over checking every five minutes can distract you from getting actual work done. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you don’t have a balance

We put our heads together and thought about what makes a happy inbox and came up with these 5 email management best practices to help you get more done than ever. Read on to achieve email Nirvana.

Set Aside Email Time

Rather than checking email several times a day, set aside “sit down” times for you to process your inbox. Depending on how busy you actually get, try checking email once in the morning and once late in the afternoon, or maybe once every two hours.

Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos recommends you treat lengthy emails that need more time like a meeting. According to his method, called the Yesterbox technique, these longer emails should be calendared and given a set amount of time, while quicker emails can be dealt with on the fly.

Create Folder Structures for Emails

Set up a folder structure in your Gmail or Outlook. Folders and subfolders quickly prioritize emails, so long as you label them for maximum efficiency.

 

“Your “to do” list each day is simply yesterday’s email inbox (hence, “Yesterbox”). The great thing about this is when you get up in the morning, you know exactly how many emails you have to get through, there’s a sense of progress as you process each email from yesterday and remove it from your inbox, and there’s actually a point when you have zero emails left to process from yesterday.There is actually a sense of completion when you’re done, which is amazing. I would say that on half the days, I’m actually completely done with all my email obligations by NOON, which has been an incredibly freeing feeling. Even though my responses to most emails are not the same day, I actually end up being MORE responsive than I have been in the past, because most people will get a response the day after (as opposed to a week after, a month after, or several months after which used to happen all the time because I would always procrastinate on the hard emails). ” – Tony Hsieh

Zach Hanlon, Director at Live Area, recommends a five folder approach based on order of priority and timeliness of response. This organizes emails by deadlines:

  • Today
  • This Week
  • This Month
  • FYI
  • General Inbox

With Hanlon’s system, you tighten the focus and put more energy into more urgent things.

Take advantage of the “Rules” feature, if your email carrier has one (both Gmail and Outlook do). You can route emails directly into folders or subfolders, without ever hitting your inbox. Then, you can check your folders when you’re free or at a time you’ve designated.

Reuse Emails

There are emails that you cycle through over and over again to different recipients. Stuff like emails to welcome new clients, new hires, project updates, or birthdays, events, etc. You may want to consider templating these emails.

There are two ways to reuse an email:

  1. Copy and paste the email from your Sent folder. You’ll have to change a few details, like names, dates, or prices, but you won’t have to write an entire email.
  2. Use “canned responses” (Gmail) or “quick parts” (Outlook). While these two features work differently, both options allow you to save what you’ve already written and insert into a new email or into a response.

Clear Action Items
When writing an email that includes action items, be sure they’re clear. You may want to use bold font or list items in bulleted list, including:

  • Name of the group
  • Individual you’re referencing

This helps avoid confusion or the need for additional emails.

Diversify Communication

Reduce the number of emails in your inbox by diversifying communication tools. Adding messaging apps like Slack or Stride to your workflow allows you to chat with teammates, ask questions, give and receive updates and send quick feedback, without touching the inbox.

If you’d like to learn how Umuse helps take the sting out of the inbox. Check us out here. We love helping teams do better stuff.