How to get on top of your email

Information Overload
Stressed young business woman responding to email.

Email was designed as a fast, free communication method but as with most new technology it will become a nuisance if we don’t manage it properly. Due to email being free it has been the medium for a lot of unwanted messages, (spam) malicious emails, scams and even over use of something that should be making life more simple; not complicated.

Medium to large companies usually compound the problem, as they spam their staff with countless messages from every department. Many have not evolved beyond email and it is over used because it is assumed to be the most efficient form of communication for every situation. There are several alternatives to email communication, however, that’s not the focus of this article.

Here are a few quick tips to help you keep on top of your email, so you can make it work for you and not the other way around:

  • Unsubscribe from all lists that you don’t need. Marketing emails will have an unsubscribe link in each message, so you can opt out if you don’t want to get email from a particular sender.
  • Find an email service with good spam and virus protection. I have known some ‘free’ email providers to have very little or no spam protection. As a result, I have been bombarded with hundreds of unwanted offering mail order brides or some subscription medication. Some email services will charge a few dollars each year but will have built in spam and virus protection -it’s well worth paying for quality. ‘
  • Find an alternative communication method. Sometimes a phone call is more effective than email when you need an immediate response. Work on a group project with a file sharing or collaboration platform instead of email, so you can keep a single copy of your file and forgo the long email threads.
  • Type key words or phrases in your subject line, so you can easily find your email later. Some software will not search an entire message, so you can help people find it by being specific with your subject line. HINT: This will also make life easier for you when people reply to your message.
  • Don’t waffle on! Your email should be clear and concise. If you don’t get to the point quickly and keep a clear, simple message your receiver might not understand what you are asking them.
  • Block or report unwanted email. Most email services will let you block a sender by their email address, however, if you still have trouble you can block messages from a specific domain name.
  • Get an IMAP email service. An IMAP email service will let you keep your email in sync across all of your devices, so you only need to mark an item as ‘read’ once. IMAP email is stored on a server, so your email is not automatically downloaded or deleted once you have read it.
  • Create your own folders to keep you organised. Do you ever lose email? Of course you do. You can create and name your own email folders, just like a filing cabinet, so you can keep everything organised.
  • Apply rules and filters to your incoming mail. Rules or filters can be applied, so your email is sorted and filed based on who sent it or by subject if you prefer.
  • Check your email three times per day. Email is not urgent. Many of us use email as a welcome distraction from what we are doing. Constant email interruptions will keep you distracted and stop you from attending to more pressing matters. Block 15 minutes out of your calendar, three times a day to manage your email.
  • Organise senders by priority. Some email software allows you to add favourite senders, so you might want to add your boss and your most important colleagues and clients to this list.

I hope these few quick hints will help you get on top of your own email today. More importantly though, we need to start working more efficiently as teams and organisations. I believe it’s time to re-think email within corporations, so it can be the efficient form of communication it was designed to be.

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