By Robert Bernal
Many of us feel like we have two jobs: our actual job and responding to emails for our actual job. The high volume of email desk workers receive daily (and sometimes nightly) can be daunting or even downright dismaying.
But even the most email-fatigued among us know we need email to communicate with customers, colleagues, and friends. Email is woven into our lives and won’t go away anytime soon. And that’s okay because we can equip ourselves to manage our inboxes smartly, simply, and sanely. Read on for email habits devised to reclaim valuable hours, redirect energy to more important tasks, and restore the sanity email saps from us one ping at a time.
Ten Healthy Email Habits
- Categorize incoming emails. Use filters to group emails by category—for example, by level of urgency or specific project—as they arrive, so only the most important emails live in your inbox. This declutters the space without deleting emails that don’t need immediate attention, but you still want to review.
- Batch tasks. Now that your emails are categorized, you can easily knock them out in groups. Block out sensible amounts of time to respond to groups of emails, says Laura Mae Martin, executive productivity adviser for Google. Working with similar or related emails as a single task saves you from constantly shifting mental gears and wasting time as you do it.
- Limit repetitive work. If you receive emails that require standard responses, set up templates with your canned replies and let ’em rip.
- Minimize the email you receive. Unsubscribe to unnecessary mailing lists. Block spammers. Don’t cc yourself on emails you send—you have a copy in your Sent folder.
- Declutter your inbox. Archive what you should save. Delete what you don’t need. And empty your Trash now and then. No one likes to see that little red indicator reminding them they have hundreds or thousands of unread emails.
- Snooze email. Imagine a world where you deal with emails only when you’re ready. Snooze appropriately and live in that world.
- Download and file attachments. Looking for attachments you know you’ve received is a frustrating productivity-killer. Yes, email search is powerful, but already knowing where an attachment lives is foolproof. Plus, it gives you peace of mind, which isn’t feasible if you rely on your memory of keywords to find what you’re looking for. Instead, download attachments and file them in designated folders in the cloud.
- Set boundaries. Determine what your off-hours are. Declare your vacation days. Then use your out-of-office responder and stick to it—so your colleagues will too. When working, turn off visual and audible email notifiers on your computer and phone if you can, to stay on task and avoid email interruptions. “New Message” alerts on your desktop and pings from your phone are distractions whether you’re working or enjoying some well-earned you-time.
- Pay it forward. Make life better for your colleagues too. Send fewer emails. Connect over the phone. (Remember talking in person?) Avoid writing unnecessary emails. That group email from your manager? No need to Reply All just to say “thanks!” You may seem more of a nuisance than a team player.
- Put SaneBox to work for you. SaneBox was developed to deal with certain email challenges so you don’t have to. Let our artificial intelligence learn from your past inbox behavior—which emails you opened, which you replied to and how quickly, etc.—and then organize your incoming email. Custom filtering rules, one-click unsubscribe, saving attachments to your Dropbox or Box account, auto-archiving or trashing emails after certain dates are all ways SaneBox can take control of your inbox, so you can take control of your day.
Pairing healthy email habits with SaneBox is the ideal cure for inbox insanity. Try it and tell us all about it on Twitter!