Email Management: Overcome the overwhelm with these proven Email Management tips
Do you use your email inbox correctly?
Your email inbox is simply that, an inbox. It’s not a to-do list, project management tool or storage method, email is only a method of capturing incoming items that wait there until they’re sorted. This inbox needs to be emptied frequently and in the right way to avoid disorganisation and further inbox stress.
Many clients I have worked with, use their inbox ineffectively and to many years of it causes huge overwhelm when viewed on a frequent basis. They start to worry things have been missed or forgotten about and this isn’t too far from reality. An inbox like this makes it almost impossible for the email owner to pick out the marketing junk to the important incoming.
If you’re feeling your inbox is causing you a headache, I am certain that these proven tips will help you release the overwhelm. I’ve used them on my own multiple inboxes and that of my clients.
I am also certain that you will feel such relief when it takes less time to start with a smaller inbox each day than it does one that is piled up with hundreds of emails that you’ll be re-reading over and over without taking action.
Let’s move on to some actionable items; the key here is this, no important emails are deleted and you don’t continue to live in a never-ending growing inbox of unorganised emails.
As a note here, I predominantly use Microsoft 365 webmail, Outlook or Gmail. So these tips work with these.
Schedule specific times to look at your email inbox and refrain from checking it every 10 minutes
Why is this important? Well, Email sucks so much of our time, with marketing emails, social media notifications and everything else, it can be such a productivity killer.
How I do this: I schedule a block of 15 minutes in my actual calendar for the morning, around 10 am, 15 minutes around 1 pm and 15 minutes at around 4 pm. I set a timer and do what I need to do at that time.
Dealing with a serious backlog? Set aside about an hour each time to chip into the backlog at the same time. I schedule longer times monthly, to give my email a deep clean.
The key is to set a timer so you don’t run over.
Supercharge the way you handle your incoming mail when you log in for your 15 minutes scheduled check-in, with every email you click on, take immediate action.
What do I mean by this? OK, for each mail you click, you need to make a swift decision (where possible) to do something with that email.
That action could be;
Hit the Delete button (It’s can be so fulfilling)
Take the easy wins, delete the obvious trash items. Don’t fear that delete button especially because you already know the emails are junk! If you think you might need it again, send it to reference. Even better, just scan the sender and the subject without actually clicking into the email to save extra time. Chances are the deletable emails are easily identifiable.
Tip: Sort by from or search by the sender to see if you can delete multiple at a time.
Another Tip: Never want to receive an email like this again? Unsubscribe! (Usually found at the bottom of the received email). Unless it’s a family member or friend, then I can’t be involved since I am not responsible for fallouts…
I have some promotional or blog emails come in that I like to read in future, so, I don’t want to delete them.
Great! It’s good to keep on top of your education. In this case, you can just move the items to reference when you sweep your inbox, create a @to read file or you can set up a rule to automatically organise those emails into your chosen file, as they’re received into your inbox.
Note: In Gmail, all deleted messages are permanently deleted and are unrecoverable after 30 days of sitting in Trash.
Add clear appointments to your calendar
these are quick wins. Once added to the calendar, Archive it.
Use a super simple referencing system for your mailbox. You can either simply place an A-Z file system or set up files per topic or person. In Gmail this is labels.
Keep your filing simple and logical.
How I do this: I have a topic and people email reference files, If I need to create one I do, it really doesn’t matter to me how many I have. I try and keep each file a single click I.E no subfolders where possible, to maximise my time. I always start with an @action (to action) @waiting (on someone else or a resource) @reference (library of content I’ve saved) and @someday (possible one day but not to fill my brain) file (The @ ensures they sit at the top, but you could always choose them to be favourite files instead of the @ if you wish).
I also use Evernote and if there’s something I want to keep for later to use as inspiration, I forward to my Evernote email address.
(Account – Settings – Account Summary – Email notes to)
Worried about files or maybe you don’t want them? Remember that you have a search function and there has been this function in all email platforms I have used.l actually always default back to when I need to find something quickly.
The 2-minute rule
This one is super, super simple and yet so effective.
Can the item of mail be done in 2 minutes or less? Yes? DO IT! No? Pop it into your action file. Sorted. It takes so much more time opening, closing, opening, reading, closing, opening, reading – you get the idea.
Once you’ve done the above, what’s next? Your action emails or emails you’re waiting on other people or resources before you can continue.
Action emails get filed to Action
Waiting emails get filed to Waiting.
Now, how does it feel to have an empty inbox? Welcome back focus.
Setup Filters and automate
If you receive multiple newsletters/promotional etc each day/week you can set up a filter to deal with them.
- Filter marketing emails to either delete/archive or send to a reference file
- Automatically delete, send to archive, or label emails from one specific sender you can enter the sender’s email address into the “From” then select the action you would like to use as the filer (delete, archive, or label).
- You can do the above using the email domain also, instead of “From” enter the Domain for example *@domainname.co.uk
- Do you always receive action emails from a customer or your boss? Do you use email as a reminder service for yourself? Make a quick filter to send email from your boss’s email, customers email or your own if you email yourself reminders to your @action file, click ‘Skip the inbox’ (Archive-It) and it’ll miss your inbox. Add the label @action or whichever you’re using and save.
Want to do this as a single task? Place an OR between email addresses. Gmail will capture all of those to your @action box.
Additional Tip: Send any Actions which hit the @action box to your task management tool.
Keeping on top of the mails and best practices
This one is simple;
- You need to keep consistent with checking your @waiting and @actions files (and any others you’ve set up to capture actions items). Out of sight, out of mind is not an option with these files. Ignoring them or forgetting them will return bad feelings about your email inbox.
- Always start with Delete on your 15 minute scheduled slots
- Review your reference mails frequently, (I actually do mine weekly) to delete any unwanted emails which have expired plus, If I haven’t read them by 1 month, the chances are I won’t.
- Do you have emails you’re forwarding to someone else but they have absolutely no requirement for you to action or keep? Reply and delete.
My Daily/Scheduled Email Workflow
- Scan of immediate deletable emails.
- Click individual email item remaining
- Make a decision instantly
- Take action on under 2-minute action emails. If I need to track the replies I add to @waiting
- Over 2-minute actions move to @action
Something I want to reference later I move to @reference
- I move to Topic Files if they are part of a specific project/File or person
- Archive all Mail
- Inbox clean and organised
The Organised Inbox
Would you like to supercharge your email management skills either for your own use or to enhance your freelance skills?
Join the wait list to be notified when The Organised Inbox course is launching. You will also get FREE supercharging productivity tips each week.
This is my action packed multi module, completely digital course which gives you actionable tasks, tips and a step by step guide on how to manage emails day to day.
The course covers – Dealing with Backlog, Dealing with Junk, File Setup, Writing Emails, Tracking emails and more.