If you feel like too much of your day is spent on email, you’re probably right. The average worker receives 120 emails every day and spends 11 hours each week going through email messages. That’s time that could be devoted to building and growing your business.
But getting your inbox under control is easier said than done. If you have a few extra minutes to devote to organizing things, though, you may be able to get back some of those weekly hours and put them toward being more productive. Here are some email management tips that can save time and reduce your risk of missing important emails.
The first step in organizing any email inbox is to create folders. Think of your folders like a file cabinet and your emails as a stack of paper on your desk. By sorting those papers into categories, the next time you need to find something, you’ll search the limited documents in one folder rather than the whole stack.
But with email, folders can be useful beyond searchability. You can create a folder for messages you need to take action on, for instance, or a folder for items you’re saving for reading when you have extra time. The key is to outline how you’ll organize things first, then start building the infrastructure.
If you work with multiple teams or clients, email folders can be your friend. You can create a folder for each. But you don’t have to stick to this setup. Instead, look at your own inbox and determine the system that works best for you.
Once you have folders in place, it’s time to ensure you don’t spend your day shuffling messages around — that’s where automation comes in.
Every major email provider lets you set up rules for your messages. A rule tells the system what to do with an email when it comes in. In Gmail, you can create a rule by clicking on the drop-down box on the right of the search field. Or check the box next to an email and choose Filter messages like these. To create a rule in Outlook, you’ll just need to select Rule, Create a new rule.
For filtering emails, simply tell your email provider to automatically move messages from a particular sender or a specific subject line to the appropriate folder. Provided you’ve set up folders already; you’ll only need to create a folder to make this happen. But you can also create folders as you create new rules and see the need.
For instance, if you’ve set up a folder for each client, you’ll create a rule to send all emails from that client to the folder with that client’s name on it. When you arrive at the office each day, you can check each client folder to see if there’s anything new to attend to. If you opt for this organization method, you must never forget to check each of those folders.
Use the Snooze Feature
Another option that doesn’t require folders or rules is “snooze.” This is a Gmail feature that lets you table an email for later.
To snooze an email, you simply click on the clock icon to the right of the email you want to save for later. Choose a time that you want it to appear in your inbox again. If you get some extra time before that scheduled reappearance, you can click on the Snoozed folder on the left-hand side of your screen and see all your snoozed emails at any time.
Keep Your Inbox Clean
If you’re receiving anywhere close to the average of 120 emails a day, your inbox can quickly become overwhelming. You may scroll through to see if anything catches your eye, taking action on the items that need your immediate attention. But this process puts you at serious risk of missing an important message.
One practice some highly productive experts use is to keep their inboxes squeaky clean. That means automatically directing incoming emails into folders and either deleting or taking action on anything that remains. You’ll then be able to quickly identify any emails that don’t fall into your existing categories.
Another popular practice with some professionals is only to keep items that need immediate action in your inbox. Everything that can be saved for later can go into a folder for follow-up. You could also use Gmail’s Star feature or Outlook’s flagging feature.
Sync Your Email Accounts
One thing that can quickly complicate your email situation is having multiple accounts. This is especially true if you have numerous emails with Gmail, Outlook, or another provider.
One option is to sync your accounts. You can easily combine multiple Gmail accounts into one, for instance, or you can pull your Gmail into Outlook and vice versa. You can then set up rules that filter emails from all your accounts so that your inbox becomes more manageable.
Use a Tool
Now that you’ve seen all the ways you can manually organize your inbox, here are some tech tools that can do it for you. Yes, setting up rules automates the organization process, but software can take even more of the work out of your hands.
Sanebox uses artificial intelligence to learn how you interact with your email each day. The result is an inbox that organizes itself. If you have multiple accounts, you can also use a tool like Shift, which lets you quickly toggle between various email accounts, including moving between accounts with different email providers without logging out or syncing inboxes.
Organizing your email will not only help you be more productive, but it will also reduce the risk that you’ll miss an important message. Whether you choose to use state-of-the-art tools, set up rules and folders, or a combination of all of the various methods — it’s essential to set some time aside to get your inbox in order. Having things orderly can reduce the chaos in your day, giving you a little more peace of mind as you try to stay on top of urgent messages.