According to data from Statista, as of 2021, every day, Americans spend an average of 149 minutes checking their work email. That’s nearly 2.5 hours—or more than a quarter of the work day—spent navigating your inbox.
Not exactly a recipe for productivity.
But there are ways to make email management more efficient. All you need is the right strategy—and the right tools.
Author, YouTuber, productivity and knowledge management expert Tiago Forte recently outlined one such strategy in a YouTube video—a strategy that, instead of spending 149 minutes every day opening, sending, and organizing emails, will help you get out of your inbox and focus on the work that really matters.
Let’s take a look at Forte’s strategy—and how SaneBox can help you bring that strategy to life in your inbox:
Get rid of unnecessary emails
It’s hard to increase email productivity when you’re spending hours each day wading through hundreds of marketing emails, notifications, and other unnecessary messages to find the emails you actually need to read and respond to you. Not only does it take an incredible amount of time, but it also increases the likelihood that important messages could get lost in the shuffle.
That’s why Forte’s first recommendation to make your email more efficient is to unsubscribe and filter out any and all unnecessary emails. For example, signed up for an email list to access a product coupon—and are now bombarded with marketing emails on a near-daily basis? Unsubscribe. Get a notification every time someone shares a post on social media? Turn those notifications off. Whatever emails are taking up space in your inbox, get rid of them—and clear up space to focus on the messages that matter.
How SaneBox can help: Unsubscribing from multiple newsletters and email lists can be time-consuming. Plus, hitting unsubscribe tells the sender that your email is active, which can put you on additional contact lists—and cause the number of unwanted emails in your inbox to increase instead of decrease. With SaneBox, you don’t have to spend time going through the unsubscribe process over and over again; instead, just drag and drop an email into the SaneBlackHole folder and you’ll never get another email from that sender again—no unsubscribing necessary.
Streamline to core email functionality
According to Forte, one of the biggest contributors to lack of email efficiency is using email for too many things—like chatting with colleagues or using features like “starred” to track important messages or tasks.
Which is why his next recommended step? Stop using email for everything and strip it down to its core functionality and what it does best—collecting new inputs.
How SaneBox can help: SaneBox makes it easy to streamline your inbox with custom DIY folders. Not only will these custom folders help you more effectively organize your emails, but by creating folders for each category of emails, you can train SaneBox to automatically filter your emails to the correct place—freeing up your inbox for your most important and/or urgent messages.
Set up downstream systems
Once you stop using email for everything, the next step to increasing productivity and efficiency is setting up systems to manage all the tasks you’re no longer going to be managing via email.
- A calendar to manage appointments, meetings, and other events—and then linking that calendar to all devices
- A digital task manager—which must capture and link back to any and all tasks that come in through email—to stay on top of to-do’s
- A reference app to take digital notes and store important files and information
- A read later app to save any emails you want to read (or, in the case of videos, watch) later
Setting up these downstream systems takes your emails and funnels them into the appropriate place—clearing out your inbox in the process. (For example, when you get an email with a meeting invitation, you can sync it to your calendar—and not leave it sitting in your inbox.)
How SaneBox can help: SaneLater can act as your read later app, storing all of the emails you want to read or engage with—just not right this second.
Streamline your workflow (and create more time for focused work)
Forte compares email to a “high speed production line;” in order to foster a high level of productivity, you need to streamline your workflow, remove as much friction as possible, and minimize distractions as much as possible.
Forte recommends four specific strategies for streamlining your email workflow, including:
- Turning on auto-advance. When you activate auto-advance, when you archive or delete an email, instead of taking you back to your inbox, you’ll advance directly to the next email—which can minimize distractions and keep you from getting pulled into the totality of your inbox.
- Keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts (like Control + C to compose an email) will help you save time over manually performing the corresponding functions. And while the time save per email may be minor, when you think about how many emails you send each day, the time adds up—increasing overall efficiency.
- Turning on conversation view. Conversation view makes sure that any messages you received are stored on the same thread and saved in chronological order; that way, you can easily review your conversations, read the responses in order, and ensure you’re replying to the most recent message in the thread.
These might seem like small changes. But these small changes will help you streamline your email processes, freeing up more of your time and attention to focus on the work that really matters—instead of feeling overwhelmed and distracted by your inbox.
How SaneBox can help: SaneBox offers a variety of features to help streamline email workflows—like SaneCC, which allows you to filter out emails you’re CC’d on (which are typically more FYI than actionable), or SaneNoReplies, which will remind you to follow up on important emails if you don’t get a response within a certain timeframe.
Make triage decisions
All the above steps lay the foundation for a more productive and effective email experience. And once they’re in place, the last step is making decisions about how to manage your inbox/emails as quickly and decisively as possible—a process Forte calls “triage.”
Triaging is all about deciding how to sort things when they reach your inbox. You already have all the systems in the place; when an email comes in, you just have to figure out whether you want to:
- Add to your calendar
- Create a task in your task manager
- Store as reference in your reference app
- Add it to your read-later app to attend to at some future point
By triaging your emails, you’re taking the appropriate action for each message that hits your inbox, whether that’s responding, setting aside time for a meeting on your calendar, or funneling important but non-urgent emails into your read-later app. And taking appropriate action on every email you receive—instead of leaving it sitting in your inbox—is the key to increasing email productivity and efficiency.
How SaneBox can help: With SaneBox, you have all the features you need to take the appropriate action on your emails, keep things organized, and avoid email overwhelm. And because SaneBox leverages AI and machine learning, the more you use it, the more efficient it—and you—will become.
Want more insights on how to increase productivity? Make sure to visit Forte Labs for additional methods on how to organize your digital life and reach your full potential.