Are you knocking out your recipients with your emails? Perhaps your inbox is constantly overflowing and you are taking your frustration out on them? This week I’m here with tips to help soften the blow by recovering precious time and improve focus. Why? Because today is Inbox Zero Day.
Reducing the number of emails sitting in your inbox and managing the incoming flow helps reduce stress, improve communication, and increase productivity. A cluttered inbox can be an overwhelming time waster, or worse, lead to failed communications. Constant notifications and interruption of work add up quickly. One study showed that it takes an average of 23+ minutes to refocus on a task after a distraction. Need more reasons for why you should keep that inbox as empty as possible? I’m a big believer of inbox zero, so just write back and I’ll gladly share examples of major problems caused by overflowing inboxes with you.
As I often do, I’ll break the tips below into sections. You can choose some or ideally all if you are ready to knock this out once and for all.
Use Folders This is an easy one to start with. Any email that you’d like to keep but doesn’t require any response / action should be immediately sorted into a mailbox folder. Some of my favorite folders are: Clients, Vendors, Purchases, Business, Pets, Travel, and Team. Start simple and create folders you know you will use – you can always create more as needed.
Setup Filters / Rules Email filters are basically inbox rules which automatically sort email for you. Receive an invoice every month that needs to be moved to the purchases folder? Receive marketing emails you’d like to keep in a folder so you can circle back later? Filters can do the sorting automatically! Setting up email filters should be done carefully to ensure the correct emails are flagged and sorted. Here is a quick guide for how to create / manage email rules with Outlook.
Use Keyboard Shortcuts Moving emails to folders, composing replies, or forwarding can mean lots of mouse movements. Learning the keyboard shortcuts for the tasks you do often will get you there faster! Here are the Outlook keyboard shortcuts for all platforms.
Email Templates Outlook and many other email apps let you create email templates. These templates can include images, contain text of your choice, and customformatting. Once done, you can save these templates like files on your computer and use them with a double click when needed. This approach saves you lots of time on messages you compose often and gives you a chance to improve the template each time you use it. Here is how to use templates.
Marketing Emails You will be surprised how many emails you consider to be spam are actually marketing emails. Often, these are emails you have subscribed to receive. Unfortunately, we don’t always subscribe ourselves – sometimes an online purchase is all it takes to get on a marketing list. When you see a bulk email (such as this one), look for an unsubscribe option (like the one we have below). You will be surprised how many emails you can stop by simply unsubscribing. Fewer notifications, less emails to delete, more time to stay focused!
Email Notifications This one took me a while to start working on myself and I’m still trying to master it. There are myriad of notifications that arrive to us via email. Sometimes it’s from the phone company informing us that our payment has been collected, other times it’s from an app we use for work. Most often, there are ways to pick which email notifications you would like to receive. Perhaps you’d like to get a copy of your bill via email but not the payment notification? Check the associated business’ online portal for notification setting options.
Track Tasks I saved the best for last. To start, you should all be using a task manager or some form of to-do app (I recently went over what we use at Chat Tech and my task management system in this article). Next, integrate your task manager with your email service if possible. Don’t let emails sit in the inbox if they require an action. Create a task in your task manager app and attach the email to them instead. This way you can set due dates, add comments, and truly track things. Your inbox should never turn into your to-do list.
My goal has always been to find ways for you save time with the use of technology so you can have more time for yourself and those you love. I will be sad if you unsubscribe from our weekly newsletter but if you are simply deleting it the moment it arrives, I rather you do. Inbox zero was one of the best things that helped me stay more organized and be better at communication. I hope you take the inbox zero oath with me so you can look back in a few months and be amazed like I was after my first few weeks.
– Burak Sarac, Team Lead
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