5 Ways to Take Control of Your Email Inbox

Do you wish that you could have an empty email inbox each day? Or better yet, do you wish that you could receive less emails each day? I receive up to 200 emails per day (to my various email addresses) and unless I have a system for managing my email, it can be very easy for be swamped with un-actioned emails.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are five ways to start taking control of your inbox today.

  1. Have a system for sorting your emails. If you are getting hundreds of emails each day, unless you have a system for sorting it out, you can get snowed under with emails very quickly. Once of the best systems for sorting emails is the DDRDD method. It stands for Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer and Do. When going through all your emails, if you can start applying this method, it will make a huge difference with the way you manage your emails. Personally, I like to delete as many emails as I can first before applying the rest of the method.
  2. Set up folders and rules for emails. Most email programs like Outlook, Gmail or Mail etc. allow you to set up rules for your emails. For example, some of the folders I have set up in my Mail program include Action, Waiting, Inbox cc plus many other folders according to projects, people and resources. If an email requires me to do something, unless I take care of it when I read the email, I will move the email into the Action folder. Similarly, if I am waiting for someone to do something, I will move the email to the Waiting folder. I have also set up a rule that whenever I am copied or cc’d on an email, it automatically moves into my Inbox cc folder. There are many rules and folders you can set up depending on how many emails you receive. Doing this has been a lifesaver.
  3. Check emails only at specified times during the day. This means that you also need to turn off the auto check or auto refresh option in your email program. Most people have their email program open all day and are controlled by their inbox. As soon as an email comes through, it is almost habitual to read the email straight away. That is a very unproductive habit. I tend to check emails only three or four times per day. This is usually in the morning, just before lunch, mid-afternoon and early evening. The main reason for checking emails in the evenings is to account for the time differences between countries and continents.
  4. Schedule time for responding to emails. In your calendar, there has to be time scheduled for you to respond to any emails you need to. By batching all your responses together, you will be able to respond to more emails in a shorter amount of time. It is also important to keep your responses brief and to the point. I will usually respond to emails for about 30 minutes mid-morning and then spend another 30 minutes to an hour after lunch. My aim each day is to keep my email responses to less than 90 minutes. That is still a lot of time and I am continually looking at ways to reduce that even further. Having a virtual assistant to handle all my emails may be the next step for me.
  5. Reduce the number of emails you send out. It is a simple law – the more emails you send out, the more emails you will receive. This is why it’s important to limit the emails you send out to only what it is necessary. Another thing you can do to reduce the number of emails you receive is to unsubscribe from mailing lists that are not important. While most of these emails do not usually require a response, you can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend reading and sorting emails simply by unsubscribing from lists.

These are some very effective ways for you to start taking control of your inbox and having more time during your day to do the things that really matter. Your aim should to be to have an empty inbox at the end of each day. Give it go and find out for yourself whether it is making a difference or not.

Question: How do you keep your email inbox under control?

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