Are You Drowning in Your Inbox?

Judith Guertin Posted in Getting Organized

Simple inbox strategies to start using today.

Are You Drowning in Your Inbox?

Remember this number when composing an email

Current studies show that on average we spend only 13.4 seconds reading an email. Remember this when the temptation strikes to write a long, complicated email with multiple points or questions. The first one or two will get answers, and they do not address the rest. What then? Send another email and another until they answer all questions? Try this instead, one topic, one question, one email.

One way to have less email in your inbox is to send less email

There are other ways to communicate besides email. Do you use a chat tool at work? Using chat in a project manager keeps information on a particular project, for a team or a group, or any other related items together. It is quick and to the point. It makes it simple to know where to look for the information.

Mute conversations you need not be part of, and check on a regular schedule

When you are finished with your part, remove yourself from the project.

Make a quick phone call get you the answer you need

Email takes time to write, since there is no tone or inflection, often you need to write and rewrite the email to be sure that your reader will understand what you want. Why spend an hour crafting an email when you can get the answer you need with a quick phone call?

Schedule a brief meeting to review all current questions

Honestly, if it will take an hour to write the “perfect response”, schedule a meeting. When you send the meeting request, use the notes section to add a brief agenda of what you would like to discuss. Meetings do not need to be an hour long: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 30 minutes might be all you need.

Avoid Reply All

A Harvard Business Review study showed the actual cost of every email sent or received is 95 cents. Almost a dollar in lost productivity for each person who deals with an email they should not have received.

Reduce your stress level

Stop constantly checking your email! Instead of watching your inbox, set-up times to process your email. When you process your email, you take action! Does this email need a reply? Should you forward to someone else? Do you need to do research on the topic before you reply? Do you want to save the email and the attachment or just the attachment? Is it for Archive only? Will you save the email to another software tool for reference like Trello, Asana, Evernote, or One Note?

Check your email less often

The average person loses 27 minutes per day opening and closing email. That totals 2 hours and fifteen minutes per week, or put another way 5 days over the course of a year lost to “checking email”. The average knowledge worker checks email over 15 times per day! That means you are checking every 30 minutes!

Your subject line should tell the reader what the email is about before they open it

For example, Expense Report Due, Agenda for ABC Corp Meeting. Results of ABC Survey.

Use Conversation View

This is an option available in the settings of your Gmail account. It groups together all replies to the email with the most recent response at the bottom of the conversation. Using this view will assure you see all the discussion and can respond to the most recent discussion. The alternative is scrolling up and down the Inbox for related items or filtering email on a case-by-case basis. Filtering is a great tool, but for conversations, the conversation view is my favorite choice.

Create an email signature to inform the readers of your email, how and when you respond to email

For example: “I process email at Noon and 4 p.m. If this is an urgent matter, call this number _____.” If you are in the habit of inbox watching and responding instantly, this is what others will expect when they email you. You would not respond if you were in a meeting with your most important client, would you? Respect your time in this same way, respond in a timely way, but not instantly. Yes, I hear some of you say that sometimes you must respond instantly!

Take a Snooze

You can snooze email in your Gmail inbox. What is that you ask? There is a button that looks like a clock face in Gmail that will let you dismiss an email and have it return to your Inbox on a day and time when you will deal with it. Snooze gives you choices for hours, for later today, tomorrow, later this week, this weekend, next week or custom day and time. Are you worried you might need it before that time? No problem, you will find them in the Snoozed Label on the left side of the inbox. When Snoozed email returns to your Inbox, you will see a message to the right of the email subject line to tell you how long it has been Snoozed.


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