Emails are possibly my least favourite element of the modern world. I still remember setting up my first ever email address when I was about 14 and it was basically the law to include ‘LIL MISS’ in it somewhere, with as many underscores as you could possibly fit in. Throw in a couple of kisses and a ‘MINX’ and you were good to go. Of course back then the only purpose of having an email address was so you could create an MSN account, but these days it’s a source of constant communication, back and forth and that annoying ping sound that makes me shudder whenever I hear it.
On quieter days tackling my inbox feels like a dream. I get sent a lot of junk so a large proportion of them can be instantly deleted with me unsubscribing from newsletters angrily selecting the ‘I NEVER SIGNED UP FOR THIS’ option. However there are mad days where it seems like a new message pops up every two minutes, all requiring a reply and I dream of being able to aggressively unsubscribe. I’m guessing I’m not the only one whose inbox has the ability to tie their stomach into one big ol’ knot, so today I thought I’d share my methods that I use to detangle and manage it effectively.
STEP ONE: FOLDERS ARE EVERYTHING
I’ve got to say it again, but folders are everything when it comes to managing an inbox effectively. It’s yawn, but it’s true. I tend to say the ‘more is more approach’ is better because it makes finding a lost email that you need to locate like, two seconds a go, so much easier in a sea of never-ending threads. The minute that a new project begins or I start chatting with a new brand, I make a new folder for it; nestling it under the category of a larger folder if necessary.
If the idea of folders are laughable because you currently have 3,378 unread emails in your inbox then set aside an afternoon to SORT YOUR SHIZZ OUT. At that point I’d be tempted to delete all unread emails, holding back only the read ones – which I’m guessing are the ones that you might like to keep and file away – creating a folder structure that works for you. Some like to categorise according to tasks or priorities, but I like to categorise depending on the sender and the nature of the email – shopping receipts/meetings/events/work projects – you get the gist.
STEP TWO: TURN IT OFF
I used to have the Mac mail app open on my laptop all day. I thought that was a better use of my time because I could quickly delete emails that were spam and knock off ones that did need a reply quickly, but actually it meant that I was becoming a bit of a slave to my inbox because it was constantly distracting me and taking me off task. So instead I keep it closed and and try to only open when I actually have time to answer them. Which leads me on to…
STEP THREE: THE ONE-TOUCH RULE
The ‘One-Touch’ rule, but in the context of your inbox, it basically means don’t open it, until you have the time to reply to every single thing that’s in there (if possible). Of course there might be some mammoth email in there to answer that you weren’t expecting, but I find that on the whole this works for me. I try to only open my inbox once in the morning when I first start work, around lunchtime and then at the end of day. This way I’m not constantly looking at it ticking over and filling up and can often get it back down to zero in just a 20 minute slot, three times a day. Sometimes I go for checking it just twice a day – what a rebel, eh?
STEP FOUR: OUT. OF. OFFICE.
If your inbox is really weighing you down, then don’t be afraid of sticking an out of office on. I get all sorts of ‘O.O.O’s come back to me, some people just turning one on because they’re on annual leave or maternity, others because they’re away from the office and will be slow to respond or even ones stating that the recipient only answers emails on particular days of the week or during certain times. If you’re really bogged down then there’s no harm in throwing out a ‘slow to respond’ reply just to manage expectations of when you’ll actually get round to slinging back a reply. Plus it takes the pressure off a little. It’s time to detangle that knot peeps…