By Niraj Ranjan Rout
An average professional receives 121 emails every day. It’s certainly very easy to lose control of your inbox when you have to deal with that kind of volume. For most of us, reading and responding to emails takes away as much as 28 per cent of our workweek. The stress related to email management is real.
Need a way out? Here are some practical and proven ways to help you manage the barrage of emails you receive every day.
Apply the 80/20 Rule
In order to effectively manage email, we’ve got to focus on only 20 per cent of the inputs that lead to 80 per cent of results. In other words, the focus needs to shift to 20 per cent of the emails we derive the highest value from. These can be emails from top clients, emails related to recent projects that will help you achieve breakthrough work, speaking opportunities, invitations to workshops etc.
The 20 per cent emails are the ones that require immediate attention and reply. They need to be given the most priority. Follow the two-minute rule for these emails: If it takes less than two minutes, do it now.
As for the remaining 80 per cent, take some time to reply or follow any of the tips here to manage them better (or trash them out).
Pause your inbox
If you are overwhelmed with the number of emails in your inbox and do not want to deal with it at the moment, you can take control of these, when you send or receive them. Boomerang for Gmail is an easy tool that acts as a personal secretary. You can keep your inbox from receiving emails for as long as you want. It can also send you reminders, help you schedule emails and set up auto-responses.
Touch it once
As the name suggests, touch-it-once is a principle that relies on making a decision right away. It is also referred to as the Only Handle It Once (OHIO) method. Coming back to the same email over and over again is bound to waste a lot of time. So you touch it once, take whatever action needs to be taken, close it and move on to the next priority.
The touch-it-once principle may seem like it’s easy, but it can get a little hard to follow when it comes to email. Because we have a tendency to defer replying to emails, with the thought lurking in our minds for a long time.
Keeping this mindset is important, especially since we all deal with a huge volume of email every day. This will keep you from constantly getting distracted by the thought of unreplied emails, which can dramatically lower your productivity.
Set up default replies
If you find yourself typing the same message over and over again, you can create your own templates for similar responses. Create different categories based on the kinds of replies you send and you can customise it accordingly for various replies. This will help you save a lot of time which otherwise writing a mail from scratch would require.
A lot of companies and individuals follow this. They create a standard set of replies to roll out, adding just a touch of personalisation to it.
Convert your group email accounts into shared inboxes
Group email messages can keep popping up one after the other and may or may not be relevant to every single person marked in the group. It’s possible only two employees are needed to act on that email, but somehow twelve others receive them.
There needs to be a way where such emails can be organised to monitor your team’s workflow in an effective manner. Use an email collaboration tool that acts as an alternative to such problems.
Such a tool allows you to easily assign tasks to anyone on your team without having to forward the email. It also lets you communicate internally without having to write emails. Both of these things mean you have less email clutter to deal with.
Finally, see what works for you!
There is no ‘one right way’ to manage emails. What works for someone might not work for you. Managing emails requires imbibing some rules and a little discipline. It’s a lot like developing a new habit. Just give it some time.
Niraj Ranjan Rout is the Co-founder and CEO of Hiver