When I started working with a new client last year, I was amazed to see that they had 6,534 unread emails in their inbox. That’s a lot of emails! Although they had plenty of folders set up within their email account, they hadn’t quite managed to get many of the emails filed, resulting in an inbox which had very quickly become totally unmanageable.
If you dread logging in to an email account which has become an untidy mess, you could maybe do with some tips to get it back under control. I have listed some of the common problems which will make your inbox into a small nightmare, along with some solutions which may help to make it easy-peasy to manage:
Can’t find specific emails? – If you have no filing system in place it will become difficult to keep track of correspondence that you may need to refer back to. Most email systems will have a search facility to track down your specific emails but if you want a quick reference guide, I would recommend setting up a system of folders which you can add to and delete as required. Think about the sorts of emails that you receive on a regular basis and set these up first, e.g. Financial, Work Related, Payments, Travel, Utilities, Shopping, Car, Holidays etc. You can always add sub-folders to these but be careful not to add too many otherwise your filing system could become too big to cope with. If it’s your work email that you need to get under control, use the same format but with folders appropriate to your work correspondence.
Too many emails? – Although there are strict rules regarding the sending of unsolicited emails to individuals, we somehow manage to receive correspondence from companies that we’ve never heard of. To get your email account under control, the quickest way to get down to a manageable number of emails in your inbox is to get busy with the delete button. However, the smart move would be to take a little extra time and unsubscribe to these emails to prevent them from continuing to clog up your inbox. Once your emails are under control, you can simply unsubscribe from these emails as they come through – you won’t even notice the time it takes!
Distracted by new emails arriving? – You can waste so much time by constantly checking your emails throughout the day. Unless you’re waiting for something specific to hit your inbox, I would recommend setting aside certain times to check your emails. I always start the day by going through my emails and dealing with anything that requires action so that I can get on with the rest of my day
Unsure which emails still need action? – Once your inbox is in tip-top condition again, the best tip I can give you is to keep the following three activities in mind: Delete – File – Action.
a) If you don’t need to keep an email – DELETE IT!
b) Once you have finished with an email but need to refer to it in the future – FILE IT!
c) Just by sticking to the above two points, means that everything remaining in your inbox are emails that you still need to take action on. Whether this means keeping an email so you can read it later when you have more time, making a purchase with an email offer, replying to someone or anything else that prevents you from deleting or filing. This will give you a clear view on actions that you need to take so that you can plan some time in your day to get these actions done.
Need a holiday? – Surveys report that 50% of employees check their work emails whilst on vacation and whilst some will choose to do this to prevent a huge backlog when they return home, you shouldn’t really need to do this at all. In an ideal world, you should be able to set an Out of Office alert so that anyone getting in touch by email is aware that you are on holiday and when you will be returning to work. Some things to consider including in your OOO message:
Provide the details of a colleague who can be contacted in your absence
Provide the date of your return
Provide information of who can be contacted in an emergency
Hate all emails? – Many years ago in a former job, our Managing Director had a view that if someone had something that was important enough to tell him about, they would do so on the phone so he was very restrictive when giving out his email address. Not sure that this tactic would work in today’s world…
I’m not going to lie to you, you’re going to have put some serious time aside to get your unruly inbox back under control but it will be worth every minute once the task is complete. Alternatively, if you can’t bear the thought, or spend the time to get your email account in order, you might want to consider enlisting the services of a Virtual Assistant to do it for you.