I get overwhelmed by email.
There’s a lot of it, and it’s daily, and I could spend hours just reading, sorting, deleting and downloading. So much of it is irrelevant and annoying, but sometimes you find nuggets of goodness. It’s much like mining for gold, only virtually. But it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by email.
I have 8 different email addresses. Each one serves a different purpose. But every single one of them gets email, every single day. That’s a lot of email.
I’m not alone in this. Studies show that the average worker spends almost 30% of their work-time just reading email!
Email is great, and saves a lot of time. You no longer have to wait three or more days for someone to get a message from you. You can use it to be more organized, set tasks, and more. But, email can also get out of control and suck up a lot of time if you’re not organized.
So how do you handle your email efficiently and quickly?
Every time that little notification pops up, I’m instantly tempted to check it. And that’s just ends up getting me distracted. I have wasted so much time on email, I had to change my habits. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about how to not get overwhelmed with email.
Use Rules, Filters, Labels and Folders
Remember that simple is better than complicated. So don’t go too crazy with these, but do create labels and/or rules and filter to help you organize your mail better.
Email rules and filters work like instant categorization and sorting. Pick some of the categories you get email about frequently, and label folders on that. Then set up email rules, so that your email provider will sort your email for you. Then you can just pick a topic or a folder, scan the contents for “gold”, and discard the rest.
Read Emails and Act Immediately
When you open an email, take care of it immediately. Read it, then act. If it requires nothing, delete it, but if it has something interesting you want to note, use a note-taking program to save it.
And if it has a task or great reminder, copy and paste into your to-do list and calendar. Don’t just copy and paste the text of the email into your task list, though. Put it into your own words, and put a due date on it. Otherwise you’ll add it to a never-ending to-do list, and forget all about it again.
Set Specific Times for Checking Your Email
Don’t keep your email notifications on all day long so that you’re constantly dealing with email. Instead, choose specific times during the day to check email, at the very least first thing in the morning, after lunch, and about an hour before the close of business. Let your people know your schedule.
This is where I struggle so much. Those little notifications just bug me, and then I have to check. So just turning off the notifications has helped me to not get overwhelmed by email. It’s helped immensely! Just remember to actually go back and check!
Create Separate Email Addresses
The great thing about email addresses is in most cases you’re not limited to how many you can have. Don’t go nuts, but do create a separate email for unimportant information such as business that requires an email sign-up to view information, or non-relevant newsletters. Separate customer service addresses are good too.
I have one specific email address for online purchases. This keeps all my receipts in one place, and makes it easy to go back and find the account info for purchases. I have a 2nd email for all my Google syncing. And another for communicating with clients.
Some friends of mine set up email addresses just for signing up for downloads. Then they monitor the frequency and quality of the email newsletter that follows. After 3-4 emails, they decide about unsubscribing or updating the email address. If they decide to stay on the newsletter, they will change the email address to their newsletter one that they check more frequently.
Be Free with the Delete Key
It’s tempting to save all those cool newsletters with great points and things to learn, but the truth is, you’re not likely to ever read them again. Use your note-taking tool to keep the most important points, and then delete.
Not only does the transfer help you remember the great information, but by putting it into your own words, you’ll be able to use the content later on for your own emails, blog posts and content, without copying or plagiarizing.
Create a Swipe File or Hot Keys with Automatic Replies
If you find yourself saying the same things over and over again, which is not uncommon, create a swipe file or hot keys that enable you to answer those questions again and again. Another way is to create a FAQ on your website and link to that specific answer.
I’ve got templates for certain questions that keep coming up. And then I tweak the template to personalize it. But having the template with the main information saves me from having to retype it every time. Plus, then I’m consistent with what I say. And that helps with branding.
Keep Email Replies Short and Simple
You don’t want to write really long emails to anyone. If you do, people will get confused and not really understand your answer. At the most an email answer should be about three or four paragraphs. If you include bullet points it will be easier for the recipient to act on.
Even if your email is personal, you’ll want to keep it shorter. Email is in between a voice mail and a text message. You can leave more detail, but the more detail you leave, the longer it will take to get a response back.
Copy Tasks to Your Calendar Immediately
Use your calendar to its fullest advantage by copying and pasting anything with a date in it to your calendar immediately. If it’s a task, copy and paste to your project management system too in order to stay on track with your activities.
This goes with the 2nd tip above. Don’t just copy-and-paste without putting a reminder and deadline on it! It’s so easy to get caught up in just reading the info, that you can forget to actually do anything with it.
Outsource parts of your email
A final idea is to outsource anything to do with customer service to someone else. That way you don’t even need to deal with it. And this is made easy if you use tip #6, and create a template, swipe file or hot keys with your frequently-used messages.
Don’t get overwhelmed with email – tame that monster!
Using these tips and tricks can help you manage your emails so that they don’t take up too much of your time and effort. Taming the email monster will pay off in many ways and give you back more time each day to use on more important tasks.