Whether you’re thinking of a career-switch, or looking to adopt a slower approach to your workday, one element of work that seems to remain consistent in most fields is emails—and thus, a never-ending inbox to go with it. In fact, many people feel that simply replying to emails is a whole job in itself. So, if you’re finding that your inbox has taken over your life, we enlisted the help of the Founder and Director of Simplified Lifestyle Management, Meaghan Kemeny, whose experience in the fast-paced world of PR makes her an expert on the subject. Below, Kemeny provides us with three strategies for the day-to-day management of emails, so you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by them.
Don’t live in your inbox
Luckily for us, the key to managing your inbox doesn't require you to immediately respond. Instead, Kemeny suggests allocating time to it each day. "Immediately reacting to an alert in your inbox not only disrupts your productivity, but also takes you away from the task at hand. Try committing to only looking at your inbox in designated increments throughout the day. A solid 15-20 minute session every hour or so means you can focus on producing your best work and it also incentivises you to action as many emails as you can during the permitted time period. Once you are finished, close your inbox so you can’t be distracted by alerts."
Every Email Requires an Action
Ever been the victim of a lost email chain? Kemeny's next suggestion is to make a clear and easy filing system that will ensure you never forget to reply again. "For every email, we can take an action. While in your inbox for your 15-minute email time, I suggest asking yourself which action most suitably applies to the email you are reading; do it now, defer, delegate or delete. Your inbox should not be treated as your to-do list, so don’t leave emails hanging around as a means to remind yourself to take action later. It will get lost!"
If the email can be addressed immediately through a quick response, get it done as quickly as you can—then file it! If you can’t get to the action required in the email immediately, convert the email to a 'task' and move it out of your inbox. If a colleague is better suited to pick up the action, delegate it as you read it, then file. Finally, if an email does not require filing, don’t be scared to delete it immediately. Your goal is to get your inbox down to zero emails at the end of every day—big task, but totally possible."
Filing is your friend
According to Kemeny, filing is the best way to secure peace of mind around your inbox. It may take a while to begin with, but will definitely prove worthwhile in the long-run. "Moving your emails into relevant folders is an organiser's dream and makes for easy finding later on. But for those of us guilty of not taking this extra step of email management, it’s not too late to get into a new habit. If you’re inbox is overflowing, try archiving everything up until the last seven days rather than deleting them—that way if you need to access an email, you still can. With folders within your inbox, you will save time trying to find an email with a very popular key word. The less emails you have in your inbox, the more likely you are to be working off one central to-do list and therefore be working more efficiently."