Mail used to arrive at home or the office. Time was spent to organize, review and distribute. Items that were junk were quickly thrown away while items that needed immediate attention were handled, and we would move on to the next task. These simple procedures allowed the majority of people to no have a pile of mail sitting in front of them, but when it comes to email (electronic mail) we simply ignore these steps and allow it to overwhelm us.
Email is a necessary part of the business and personal world these days but shouldn’t be considered an evil if managed correctly and treated like you would mail. Here are few tips to help manage the flow:
- Pick A Time – After speaking with people considered great with email management, they all choose a certain time each day to clean up their inbox. This is typically done in the morning (like reading the paper) and allows them to focus and manage the normal flow throughout the day.
- Manage Expectations – Replying to messages after hours sets an expectation that you are going to reply every time at those hours. You can still send those thoughts and tasks in the middle of the night and schedule them to be delivered in the morning. This allows you to clear your thoughts while not creating a standard of late night communication.
- Personal and Work – Your magazines subscriptions arrive at your home not your work. Utilize your work email for work items and your personal for personal emails. This clear separation allows you to focus on work while at work and not integrate the two.
- Unsubscribe – Would you still subscribe to a magazine that you haven’t read in months? Do you save weeks of sale flyers that are mailed to your house? If you answered yes, then this tip isn’t for you. Unsubscribing is one of the quickest way to manage the flow of emails to your inbox. A rule of thumb is if you haven’t opened the newsletter over the last five emails or purchased something from a store in six months, it is time to unsubscribe.
- Start Over – Everyone has that special personal email address that they have had for years, but if the inbox is full and unmanageable it is probably time to create a new email address. Remove the old inbox from your phone and create a new one. You can always go back to the old inbox for addresses or certain information, but you will quickly notice that the history there won’t be missed.
The above tips are a good start to improving email habits. As with any new task, it takes time and discipline, but the end result will be a managed communication tool.