We are all inundated with emails every single day. So much that it becomes overwhelming, you really could spend all day at your computer with just email. If you don’t discipline yourself, it can negatively impact your productivity. Whether we’re communicating with family, friends, or co-workers it’s one of the easiest and fastest methods to communicate a message. How to organize email is another beast to tackle.
Organizing email has been one of the biggest challenges, kinda like organizing kids clothing, there are so many options and what do you do with it all. Do you make folders? Which folders do the emails go in? Do you have to make a copy of the email because it falls into two different categories? Then after you file the email, it always seems impossible to find the email and you’re searching frantically trying to find it. I’ve done this more times than I care to remember, it gets frustrating.
Michael Hyatt who is an online marketing guru has this excellent podcast about organizing email. After being frustrated for quite some time about organizing email, I’d thought I’d give his strategies a try. You can finally get your email in control once and for all, here’s what to do:
Step 1: Eliminate Folders- Say what?! Pretty sure I had an anxiety attack when I first heard this. Folders have always been used to sort and organize emails. How in the world can you organize email without folders? Through your archives. Eliminating folders and putting the emails all in one place to search allows you to quickly find the email. Thinking about eliminating folders is scary and seems like it would make email more unorganized but that’s not the case and here’s why. When there are too many options to organize something, your brain can’t process it all, it causes you to forget where you put something.
If you have a lot of email folders, chances are only a handful get used. The rest are there just taking up space and can cause you more confusion than you realize. When you are searching for a folder, you’re scrolling up and down trying to find it and potentially go past it. More time is wasted trying to find the folder. When you put the email in archives, it’s quick and easy. There’s no searching for a folder or wondering which folder the email belongs to, it simply gets put in the archives. The chances of you needing an email from a year are slim to none.
Now that the folders are eliminated, how do you find an email when you need it? Use the search function, it’s powerful. When you are searching for an email, you typically know what you need whether who it’s from or what the topic is about, type in the necessary information in the search function. A list of the related emails will populate and you’ll be able to navigate from there which email you need. It’s quick, easy, and precise.
Step 2: Arrange by Date- Now that your email folders have been eliminated and emails are now in archives, it’s time to organize the inbox. Organize your emails by date where the most recent is on top. We plan out our days by the date and sometimes by hour, your mind it organized by the day and time.
Step 3: Open Only if You Can Respond– Have you ever read an email and then forgot to respond because it wasn’t marked as ‘unread’? Only open your email if you know you can respond immediately. Once you respond, delete it or archive it. Most emails can be responded to in a matter of minutes so you you do open an email, respond. This step can be challenging but if you practice it, you will get better at it.
Step 4: Turn off Notifications– You know how if you have a budget, you control your money rather than it control you? Same concept applies here. Turn off notifications or alerts of new emails. Close your email on your computer if you are working on a project to resist that temptation to see if you’ve received an email. Turn off notification on your mobile or tablet devices as well, it will allow you to check your email on your time, not the other way around. You’re productivity will increase because you won’t be constantly distracted by checking email.
Step 5: Unroll.me– This is an amazing app, if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s a must! This app will go through your emails and allow you to unsubscribe from them. It is a huge time saver, you don’t need to go through every email and click the unsubscribe button. It allows you to purge through all the email addresses you receive by keeping them or deleting them. You’d be surprised at some of the stuff it will find, there were things I had been subscribed to years ago that I completely forgot about. This app is a nice digital cleanse that helps get rid of unnecessary emails. Receiving emails that don’t serve any purpose just take up space and more time to sort through, eliminate what you don’t use.
Email used to be rare, it’s now rare to come across someone who doesn’t have an email. Email is the new norm and will be in the future. Use it to effectively communicate information. Check your email at dedicated times. Make it a goal to get to zero email every week, even better try to do it every day!
Follow these steps and you will feel a digital weight lifted off your shoulders and the feeling of email overwhelm diminish. Take back control of your email and increase your productivity, then brag to your co-workers how you did it 🙂
Any email tips or hacks you’d like to share? Any shortcuts you use?