Would you like to work more effectively with some of these timesavers when managing your emails? You may also be inspired to find new ways to enhance the way you’re utilizing your email application.
Do you also get a lot of emails every day?
Most people receive a large amount of information in their Inbox every day. Some of it we judge right away as unnecessary information. We also get a lot of critical emails to handle, sometimes with expectations of immediate completion!
A lot of emails should instead have been conversations. Especially if critical and with a need for instant action!
Let’s write quality emails and have more conversations, right?
I think we all can save a lot of time writing fewer emails while having more conversations. Furthermore, striving to increase the quality of our emails will inevitably lead to more flawless communication.
But how to get better at writing quality emails?
First of all, I suggest a new and shared commitment to be using email in the workplace, even more productively and respectfully. Secondly, I think we need easy to follow guidelines to help us achieve such a joint effort.
We’re talking valuable time and cost savings per employee. Consequently, the larger the company or organization, the more significant savings to harvest!
Imagine receiving just a few but necessary emails in top quality every day at work. Furthermore, covering the remaining part of the information stream via verbal conversations. Wouldn’t that be a pleasant and productive place to work?
But what to do while “waiting” for those perfect conditions to arise? Let’s dive into the 10 Timesavers Managing Emails Effectively for your inspiration:
1. Develop your scanning skills to identify critical emails fast and accurate
Developing the capability to scan and judge large pieces of text improves reading speed and productivity. That’ll also help you extracting essential information buried in fluffy messages.
2. Disable notifications for incoming emails
Unless you have a specific demand to receive notifications, then turn them off! That’s a firm step toward a distraction-free working environment to manage emails productively.
Check the settings in your email application and disable all types of notifications for incoming mail. You’ll typically see notifications enabled by default.
3. Group emails into conversations for a complete overview of threads
Have you ever experienced email ping-pong between multiple recipients? The more people involved, the faster the ball flies back and forth.
Some may lose an answer or two, thus lacking information and the complete overview. The total waste of time and confusion can be significant in such a conversation.
If you haven’t changed the Inbox settings in your email application, then it’s most likely being sort by date.
I suggest enabling Conversation Mode or Conversation View. Be sure to show the latest email at the top of the conversation. Next time you receive new emails in a massive thread, you won’t miss any of them.
4. Searching for emails provides huge timesavers
Do you or your colleagues occasionally struggle to find specific emails? If so, then keep on reading:
It’s a tedious and time-consuming task to scroll down a large number of emails looking for a particular one. Such a manual approach is often the natural way for an average user.
Think about the way you search for topics on search engines like Google or Bing. You probably use one or multiple keywords or phrases in the search field.
It’s possible to search the same way using the search field in email applications. So, instead of stressing your eyes, you’re letting the machine do the hard work for you!
Depending on the email software, you’ve got different additional options and built-in search features. You should try them all out and use them to your taste and temperament.
Ready to do a searching exercise now?
Please find a piece of paper and a pencil before opening your email system.
Think of some emails you know for sure are in the Inbox or Sent Items. Write down the names of recipients and senders combined with matching words from subjects and body texts.
Place the cursor in the search field for the Inbox in Outlook, Gmail, or whatever you’re using.
Start typing the name of someone who sent you an email, then press Enter. You’ll then see the full list of emails from him or her.
Now we’ll add a single keyword matching at least one email from that person. In the search field, after the name, insert a space followed by the keyword. Then press Enter again to get a narrowed-down list of emails.
Next, we’ll search for the same sender combined with a phrase of two words. At the end of the search field, add another space followed by a single keyword and press Enter.
You’ll probably only have a few emails to scroll and maybe just THE email you need. Also, try the same method in your Sent Items.
You can see how powerful and fast you were able to search a massive amount of emails by typing very few pieces of information.
Experiment and develop this approach into a time-saving and productive habit.
5. Mark and organize emails with labels or categories
Many prefer to organize emails into folders. However, beware that the same email can only stay in one folder at a time! Therefore I prefer to use categories, tags, or labels to organize my emails. I’m doing it sparingly, and only when strictly needed as a supplement to search features.
It’s for you to decide which words or phrases that’ll suit your requirements to organize your emails. For inspiration I’ve listed some typical examples below:
- Customer name/id
- Project name/id
- Department name/number
Put emails on a to-do list assigning labels or categories
You can quickly turn emails into to-dos with tags made from labels or categories. Let’s call them Action Flags since they specify any action you define for yourself.
I use four custom-made prioritized Action Flags for essential emails. Please note, I only use Action Flags on critical emails!
Here are my current Action Flags for myself:
- 1 Do
- 2 Plan
- 3 Prepare
- 4 Evaluate
Please try them out or make your preferred version. Remember to keep it simple from the start. You can always expand your system and toolbox if needed.
You might consider prefixing Action Flags with a particular character and perhaps a letter to ease grouping and sorting.
You can read more about the practical use of priorities in the 4-Step Prioritization Method.
6. Keeping an eye on other people’s responsibilities
Do you have an easy way to keep track of emails awaiting other people? The purpose could be an overview of actions from employees, colleagues, or anybody else.
Let’s say you need to mark an email as expecting action from your boss or the HR Department. You could label it @<your boss’ name> or @HRDept or whatever makes sense.
This tip makes it very easy to follow up without having to remember things. Utilize the search features effectively to trigger timesavers frequently when managing emails.
7. Save time with labels in the message list by Google Gmail
If using Gmail by Google, you can create and assign labels to emails for the quick lookup.
For every label you specify, you can choose to show them in the Gmail message list for easy access. These labels could be your Action Flags or any other frequently used tags.
8. Search Folders in Microsoft Outlook for frequent searches
If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, you can set up so-called Search Folders. Search Folders can show emails matching your tailored criteria.
For instance, you can define Search Folders for each frequently used category like Action Flags.
9. Automate tedious and repetitive work
Do you often repeat patterns of steps in your email system? If so, you should ask yourself, “Is it possible to automate this?”
It’s not essential whether you’re able to solve the technical challenge in the first place. The critical thing is to identify the need for automation.
When you’ve identified the need for automation, it’s quite easy to find solutions on the Internet. Don’t be reluctant to do that, just because you think it’s for nerds only.
You’ll very quickly learn how to utilize handy automation features. Always stay “hungry” to pick up timesavers for your workflow.
10. How to practice Inbox Zero to manage pending emails?
Let’s get a quick overview of the emails in your Inbox. Please notice the goal isn’t necessarily to answer all pending emails right away. It’s merely going through the Inbox deleting, archiving (maybe categorizing) and responding those you can do in no time.
When you’re beginning to master this discipline, it can also be a productive way to take a mental break. It’s similar to emptying your physical mailbox and sorting to keep or trash.
Even if you only have five minutes to spare now, let’s go harvesting some timesavers together by managing those emails in your Inbox effectively.
Before you continue this exercise, I suggest that you add four Action Flags in your email system. Add them from new labels or categories with the below names. You can always rename later to your need and taste:
- 1 Do
- 2 Plan
- 3 Prepare
- 4 Evaluate
Ask yourself the following sequence of questions for each email:
A) Is this important?
– If NO, then delete it or archive it for future lookup. Then open the next email and begin with A).
– If YES, continue to B):
B) Can I deal with it in less than a couple of minutes?
– If YES, then respond right away or perhaps forward wisely and value-adding to whom you decide to delegate. Then open the next email and begin with A).
– If NO, continue to C):
C) Is it straightforward to-do when I have the time?
At this point, you’re judging whether it’s ready to be dealt with and completed in a row. Not necessarily now, but when you set aside time to handle your Do’s.
– If YES, categorize it as a Do. Then open the next email and begin with A).
– If NO, continue to D):
D) Needs a further evaluation?
If you can’t judge is as a Do, then it probably needs further evaluation (not now! But later)?
– If YES, categorize it as Evaluate. Then open the next email and begin with A).
– If NO, continue to E):
E) Needs more preparation?
If you’re not sure about the future effort on it, then it might need some preparation before planning its execution?
– If YES, you classify it as Prepare. Then open the next email and begin with A).
– If NO, then continue to F):
F) Ready to be planned, right?
Now you’re left with a task to be scheduled; thus mark it as Plan. Then open the next email and begin with A).
Are you enjoying your fresh overview of critical emails?
Maybe you’re surprised about the fast pace with which you were able to test the method? If you weren’t that fast, don’t worry: In the beginning, we tend to indulge in the core content of the emails. I guess it’s our natural eager to deal with it right away.
Enjoy the overview you gave yourself by scanning numerous emails instead of just reading a few. Don’t let it weigh on your conscience only having deleted, categorized, and “snoozed” emails without responding to them.
Now you’re prepared with a solid plan for your effort on critical emails assigned Action Flags. So, next time you open your email application start with the 1 Do’s. That’s focused and productive instead of habitually pinning our eyes at new emails.
I urge you to continue practicing this way of emptying your Inbox for unread or unfinished messages. It will shortly reveal true timesavers when you’re managing some of all those emails in continuous lengths more effectively.
Don’t ever be a slave desperately struggling for an empty Inbox!
While it can be entirely satisfactory to maintain and keep an empty Inbox, you must never be a slave to that goal. If you spend too much time in your Inbox, don’t just continue and accept the circumstances. Instead, you should ask yourself, “Do I receive emails without purpose, or could I benefit from automating tedious and repetitive tasks?”
Sometimes we need to unsubscribe from mailing lists we no longer need. If you need newsletters without disturbing your Inbox, use automation to categorize and archive them for later use.
Summing up: 10 Timesavers Managing Emails Effectively
Hopefully, you’ll experience a more enjoyable way of handling emails playing around with the tips mentioned above.
But to move up the maturity scale, I suggest a new and dedicated general focus to send quality emails only from now on.