HR Leads Business

Jan 29, 2019 | Geoff Whiting

3 Tips for Taming Your Inbox

Every time your inbox dings and the number of unread emails goes up, your blood pressure might rise, too.

Email is one of the most common causes for the stressful feeling that we’re not accomplishing enough, and an Adobe survey suggests you’re going to spend about one month of your life in 2019 checking your work email. But don’t let that set off a panic, because it’s possible to tame your inbox. We asked three experts to share their best tips to help you take control of your email.

Establish an Immediate-Action List

Ray McKenzie, founder and managing director of consulting firm Red Beach Advisors, recommends that you deal with every email in one of three distinct ways: Respond now, delete it or move it to a folder designated for things to be dealt with later. Every other action is just a delaying tactic that can lead to stress and frustration, McKenzie says.

Today’s email platforms include a variety of sorting and folder options that offer a way to organize content and move it out of your standard inbox. This lets you quickly group things by what’s immediate and what can be reviewed when you have downtime.

Delete anything that’s irrelevant, and use your “spam” or “junk” buttons liberally to keep clutter out of your inbox.

“Following those rules for managing my inbox has been extremely successful for me not to miss any important emails and being able to read every single email that comes into my inbox,” McKenzie says.

Set Boundaries with Your Team

For many people, co-workers generate the largest volume of incoming emails. Creating some rules for your team can greatly reduce the volume of email you all have to deal with each day, potentially saving you hours each week.

Kerry Wekelo, chief operating officer at Actualize Consulting, says such rules should start with having a clear system for subject lines to help everyone know at a glance how quickly they will need to respond to any given message. This system can include phrases such as “FYI,” “Urgent,” “Meeting Recap” and “Action Required.”

“Set boundaries with your team members. Ask that they send you a summary email at the end or the beginning of the day versus emails throughout the day,” Wekelo says. “If an emergency or urgent response is needed then they can email in the middle of the day using the naming convention system. This helps to minimize the emails throughout the day that can bog you down.”

A subject line system also makes it easy for you to judge how much of your inbox is internal concerns and how much might be coming from clients or partners who expect a more immediate response.

Stick to the Time That Works Best for You

Whether your aim is “inbox zero” or “inbox infinity,” you still need dedicated time to control your email so that it doesn’t control you.

Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Mettl, suggests setting aside a part of your daily schedule for dealing only with email. “Everyone has their own time which is relatively freer,” Kapoor says. “Follow a religious practice of checking emails at the same time every day.”

There’s no single time or way to manage an inbox that works for everyone. Our experts say you need to take time to discover what works best for you. But if you start by tackling these three areas, you soon will find you have a little more breathing room.