What’s your number?
For some of us Inbox Zero is a daily goal, while others struggle, feeling perpetually overwhelmed with hundreds, or even thousands of unread emails.
With today’s business world running on emails, it’s easy to live in your inbox, re-actively trying to keep on top of a never-ending stream of messages. Constant notifications entice us away from other work, taunting us not to miss what could be an important message.
But there’s a difference between important and urgent, and managing your email has become a time vacuum.
There are many tools available to help you get on top of your email but the main hurdle is a shift in mindset - you control your email, it doesn’t control you. You choose how and when you respond. Remember that not all emails are created equal. Of all those emails you receive, probably only 10% are pertinent, and you waste valuable time dealing with the other 90%.
There are three key actions you can take which will make a world of difference to your productivity and help dig you out from being buried alive by email.
1. Turn off email notifications and only check emails a couple of times per day
That seemingly harmless little ping can seriously disrupt your day as you pause what you were doing to check a new email. If you respond in real time, as emails come in, research suggests that you can lose up to 40% productivity switching in and out of tasks. Instead, try allocating set times of day that you will devote to checking and responding to emails. And don’t forget to turn off your notifications, so you won’t be tempted!
2. Set up a folder system
Folders are one of the best ways to keep emails in track and there’s many ways to structure filing, depending on how you like to work. Some prefer to file by client or matter, while for others, creating a series of action folders: Action Required; Awaiting Response; Delegated; Archived and so on, makes filing and importantly later locating emails more streamlined.
3. Only touch emails once
Think of your Inbox as a holding pen, where messages sit temporarily before they are dealt with. With your filing system in place, you can quickly respond to emails straight away, archive or flag to respond later. Think of the time you waste trying to find and revisit emails and re-orient yourself to their content – it’s much more efficient to just handle them once.
There’s many other tools and tricks to help you simplify your email.
• Learn to use your search option
• Set templates for recurring messages you send
• Unsubscribe from list-based emails
• Set up filters to automatically flag or divert certain emails to specific folders
• Use colour coding
• Use a legal management tool such as mattero, which links to Outlook and easily connects all materials and information relating to a client or a matter
So while you might feel you’re so far behind to make a difference in your overwhelmed inbox, it’s never too late to regain control.