One of the hardest challenges for professionals all over the world today is a flooded inbox. A research conducted by Workfront in 2018 reveals that an average worker’s inbox contains 199 unread emails! Even with chat apps like Teams, Slack and Skype, WFH employees still battle swamped inboxes and find it hard to keep them in check.
Having a clean inbox is just like having a clean desk. It allows you to focus, improves your mood and makes you happy. Here are 13 hacks you need to know to control your inbox, stay productive and save time –
1. The 2-minute rule
The two-minute rule is a concept developed by David Allen, the author of the best selling book Getting Things Done. The rule is that if something takes you less than 2 minutes to do, do it – even if it isn’t a high priority. When you go through your emails for the day, identify which ones can be replied to in less than 2 minutes each — then reply and archive. For emails that take a bit longer, add this as an action on your to-do list. This trick will help you clear a big batch of emails, and you’re one step closer to inbox zero!
2. Unsubscribe often
Cruising around the WWW is great until newsletters flood your inbox. We subscribe to all sorts of things, and then immediately lose interest. Clear up that precious inbox space by unsubscribing from newsletters and mailings that you really don’t intend to read. To make this cleanup even simpler, try out this free tool called unroll.me that not only helps you unsubscribe from mailings easily, but also collates the ones you need into a neat digest!
3. The inbox diet
There’s always an inherent urgency when it comes to email. We feel like we risk being seen as unproductive if we don’t check our inboxes ten times a day. However, this practice of continually checking emails can damper our ability to focus on tasks that actually matter. Try the inbox diet and check your emails just thrice a day – when you start work, after lunch and when you’re logging off. If you need a bit of extra help, try Inbox Pause – a browser extension that puts your email on hold until you’re ready to receive them again.
4. Trash Day
Deleting your emails is a great way to stay in control of your inbox. But what if we told you that deleting your emails could save the environment too? It’s true. Every single email is stored on a server that needs energy – like air conditioning or water for cooling. The more emails we accumulate, the more energy is consumed, and the more carbon emissions we generate. So do yourself and mother nature a favour, and declutter your inbox at least once a week.
5. Filter it out
Filters are tools that sort mail automatically when it gets to your inbox. No matter which provider you use, you will definitely have the option to set up filters. This saves a lot of time and administrative actions you will need to do during the day. However, bear in mind to be simple with the filters. You can have too many filters, and this can be highly counter-productive.
Scheduling emails is a great way to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Boomerang is a plug-in that allows you to schedule emails to be sent in the future so that none of your follow-ups is neglected. The plug-in is available for both Firefox and Chrome and is a pretty efficient tool to help your inbox stay manageable.
Since this article is all about email hacks, here’s an oldie but a goodie. Sifting through 1000 emails can be pretty hard, especially if you need to find something ASAP. A great hack is to use CTRL + F or Command + F to activate the search function. From there, you can use a keyword to find what you’re looking for. For example, the name of the sender, the subject of the email or attachments like .jpg or .pdf. Apart from that, shortcuts like CTRL + A to select all also will save you a lot of time.
8. Avoid having more than two email addresses
This one is a given, but we’ll it’s worth repeating. The fewer email addresses you have, the less overwhelming it is for you. Try to stick to one personal email and one work email. However, if you do have multiple email addresses, it is always a good idea to auto-forward emails so that you do not miss important emails.
9. Take a second to rethink
Have you ever felt like you are CCed and BCCed in emails that aren’t relevant to you? Yes, it is overwhelming. The next time you want to include someone in an email, take a second to think if they need to be CCed. Every email sent takes up energy, time and valuable space of both parties. Being mindful of who you add onto the email is a nice way to show excellent email etiquette and save yourself from excess replies.
10. Set up your OOO Responder
Set up your out of office automated response before taking a vacation. This will minimise the volume of emails you need to tackle when you get back and will let others know you’re unavailable. Make sure to state how long you’ll be gone for and who they can contact if their query is urgent.
Want to know how to get your productivity hats on after a vacation? Read our article here.
To make everybody’s work easier, use acronyms like ASAP, FYI or NRN (no response needed) when you send an email. This clarifies the flow of communication, so you don’t get unnecessary responses and also saves valuable time.
12. Social media notifications
Unless it’s absolutely essential for you to know when someone likes your picture, junk messages for every single activity on your social media shouldn’t be allowed to clog your inbox. All of us check our socials from time to time, so turn those notifications off, and you’re sorted.
13. Report Spam
An empty inbox’s #1 enemy is spam. Keep spammers at bay by reporting these emails when they make their way to your inbox. By doing this instead of just deleting them, we will help our email providers learn to always mark such messages as spam in the future.