Overwhelmed by Email? Maximize this invaluable resource

Are you way behind in your email? Think about how you handle email and why. Then strategize and organize to get your email under control.

Take a look at some of these key tips to organize the volume of email.

Synch your email

  • Use a SmartPhone that is synchronized to the email on your computer it’s really easy these days as most phones are automatically configured to your Gmail our Outlook account with just a few simple minutes configuring the settings. 
  • Take those free minutes standing in line or waiting for an appointment to clear your email, keep scrolling and delete what isn’t necessary. 

Set aside a time for email

  • Focus time to check business email once a day, but not first thing in the morning. Does your morning (or main) work first so you do not get sidetracked
  • Limit yourself to focus one hour of answering emails to keep your work goals on plan rather than respond to new inquiries. 

Answer business email within twenty-four hours. Set up an auto-responder when you can’t.

  • Turn off the audible or ghost alert. 
  • Check personal email during non-work time. 
  • Unsubscribe from email lists you do not read.

Send efficient messages

  • Use the subject line to clearly describe the purpose of your email. This helps the recipient, and it helps you when you are trying to find a message you previously sent.
  • If your email requires an action by the recipient or is urgent, put URGENT or DECISION in the subject line or use the “urgent” notation provided in your email program. 
  • Keep it short. Keep it simple. One topic per email. Do not overload with too much information. It might be overlooked…and where would you file it?
  • Compose lengthy or complicated emails in your word-processing program, and then copy/paste into the email. If you have a glitch during the sending process, you can easily retrieve the message. 
  • When replying to email, include enough of the old message that the recipient knows what you are talking about. Delete unnecessary information.
  • When forwarding an email, delete the other email addresses. 

Follow up weekly

  • Review your sent emails weekly. If you haven’t received a response, follow up.

Use BCC

  • When sending an email to multiple addresses, put your email address in the “To” line and the recipients’ addresses in the “BCC” line (blind carbon copies). That way, only one name shows up and the recipients do not see everyone else’s names. Do not broadcast other people’s email addresses. 

Monitor attachments

  • These two steps will keep your computer from receiving and spreading viruses: Do not open an attachment unless you know who sent it and you’re expecting it. Only send email attachments when the recipient is expecting it.
  • If a file is too large to send through regular email, use Google Drive or DropBox.  These free services (for initial accounts) allow you to upload files and send invitations to specific individuals to open and download that file.  These services prevent the email from clogging the recipient’s mailbox and slowing down the sending and receiving process.

Monitor downloads

  • Do not download anything unless you know who sent it, what it is, and you are expecting it. 
  • Set up your email program to manually download upon your direction. 

Set preferences for receiving emails

  • Set a file size limit for receiving emails; most are thirty to fifty kilobytes. This is especially useful if you travel without fast Internet access. 
  • To prevent your inbox from overflowing, ask yourself: “Does this information contribute to my professional or personal goals?” If not, delete (such as by using Orla). 
  • If you are unavailable for a period of time, set the “Out of Office” feature so senders will receive one automatic message as to when you will return. 
  • Some email programs allow changing the subject line of an incoming message, so you can more easily find and retrieve the letter later. 

Eliminate clutter

  • Open and read an email only when you are ready to act on it. 
  • Before you read your emails, go through and delete the ones that obviously do not interest you or do not need to be saved or clearly are spam. 
  • Set up block controls for spam. 

File online and offline

  • Take some time to manage and organize email files, folders, and cabinets offline on your hard drive, and online through your service provider, where it remains even if your hard drive crashes. 
  • Copy an email to your hard drive by using F12 on your PC.  This action converts your email into document that you can store in its appropriate folder within your hard drive, for example, under My Documents; create new folders such as My Finances, My Clients, My Correspondence, or Personal. 
  • Turn emails into tasks by using Microsoft Outlook. Left-click on the email, drag it to your designated task folder, and drop it. A task window pops open with the email appended to it. Write in the task description; assign a priority and a due date. Click Save. Now you can delete the original email. Change the subject line to reflect the action required (e.g., change “re: Annual Meeting” to “Call travel agent re: Chicago trip”). 
  • If you use a “tickler” date file system for hard copies (days 1-31, months Jan-Dec), print the related email and file into the folder for the day you will need it (e.g., a message with driving directions you will need on the date of the appointment).  

Get organized. Continue to think about how you work each day. When you understand why you feel like you’re always running but never getting ahead, you can change how you process your email. When you do, you’ll be able to check out of the office, feeling like you’re in control and on top of your job.

This blog post is an excerpt from Anne’s book, Lost in Your Own Office.  Available at www.annemcgurty.com

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