You come into the office on a Monday morning, fresh off of your weekend of rest and leisure. Your work email starts loading and bam! Over 100 emails are in your inbox waiting for you.
Or perhaps you’ve just had week-long, relaxing vacation only to have your zen level decrease as your inbox increases?
What about when you turn to say something to your coworker and bam, 5 unread emails?
If any of these situations have happened to you, I’d like to start by saying:
I feel you. On a deep, deep level.
Checking emails, responding to emails (or delaying your response…) – it’s all very time consuming and eats up your brain energy.
As a person who typically receives a 3-digit number of emails on the daily, I hope to offer some advice about how I tackle the gift that keeps on giving.
Work Email Tip 1: To-do list & priorities
It’s Monday morning. A part of your brain is still processing last night’s Game of Thrones. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’re wondering if anyone would notice if you took a power nap under your desk.
Then, reality hits as your email starts loading all the little treasures that have accumulated over the past 2.5 days.
Your pulse starts to quicken as the number of unread messages keeps increasing.
It’s like hit the jackpot at a slot machine. The numbers keep going up.
Except you definitely aren’t winning at this game.
So here’s what I do.
First thing Monday morning, I allow myself the time to read through all the new emails. If the email requires a follow-up, I add it to my to-do list.
After reading through everything and making the to-do list, I review. Keeping in mind any other tasks that need to get done, I make a plan for the day.
By the way, if you need help staying focused at work, I have 5 tips for that too!
Work Email Tip 2: Tackle the easy stuff first
The morning has gone great and you were productive. But now that you’re back from lunch, 10 new emails have come in.
Two of them are instantly deletable:
1) Building management is letting you know that the water in the building is going to be brown for the next 4 hours. (Gross)
2) Walter from Creative Services is inviting everyone to join him for after work Tango lessons, which he will lead. (#classic)
Three emails require minimal energy: a simple thank you and confirming a few meeting times.
Two are what I’d call medium-level. You write: “It was a pleasure meeting you today. Please see below for the action items we discussed.”
Three make you want to squeeze out your eyeballs and require something like: “Hello Simon, Please see attached for the agenda and slide deck for your presentation tomorrow using the style guide you provided.”
I tackle my inbox by going easy-medium-hard.
The momentum I build from checking off “half” the email list by doing the easy items first makes me feel good about myself.
Work Email Tip 3: Folders and organization
I create a subset of project folders and move emails into the categories accordingly.
Throughout the day, things are getting filed away, deleted, or flagged.
I know, email management should be my main degree.
If you want to be fancy, there is email management software out there like Sortd that allows you to organize your inbox into lists. I haven’t tried it myself but the reviews look promising.
Work Email Tip 4: Picking up the phone
Sometimes it really is just easier to call someone to clarify a problem rather than spend 10 minutes crafting a detailed explanation.
Plus, this comes with an added bonus that you get to know the person you’re calling better.
At first, I wondered why my counterpart from the Montreal office always calls rather than emails.
But I can honestly say that after 3 years of weekly phone calls, I feel like I’ve gotten to know her really well even though we’ve never actually met in person.
Although, apparently, millennials are scared to actually speak on the phone. So if you need tips to get over the fear, check out this Business Insider article!
Work Email Tip 5: Email on your smartphone?
The workday is finally done and it’s now technically “your time”. But you’ve connected your work email to your smartphone.
So is it really your time, then?
When I started my first “real” job I synced my work email with my smartphone. I wanted to make a good impression and show that I would go the extra mile.
Plus, I thought this way I was protecting myself from the mildly traumatic “email sync” the next morning (i.e., receiving 89 emails before my coffee).
Here’s the thing.
Luckily my work did not require me to be “on call” at all hours. So what was the point if I was going to wait until Monday to respond anyways?
I was giving up my freedom. Whenever a new email came in, I would react to it. This took time away from me living in the moment.
So what was the point? Besides having minor jolts of anxiety throughout the weekend?
My advice is, if your job allows it, don’t suffer needlessly by syncing your email to your smartphone. Set your expectations with your manager.
So there you have it. My 5 tips for keeping the email beast under control.
How do you guys manage your inbox from overflowing?