Email can sink your time so it is crucial you are in control.
Here are 5 sure-fire ways you can be productive with email.
1. Create folders and filters.
Every email program since the dawn of computers has allowed for folders and filters. The purpose of a folder is to store messages. The purpose of a filter is to automatically move incoming messages to a folder. How many of each do you employ today?
Using descriptive folder names such as jobs, events, and dates, you can then move incoming messages that include specific keywords in the subject or body to your chosen folder.
If you subscribe to mailing lists where the sender is always the same, create a filter with conditional logic that whenever a message coming from email@example.com arrives it is moved from your inbox to the x folder.
2. Reduce your inbox to zero messages every night.
One of your folders to create should be for “to do” tasks. This is where every message that remains in your inbox every night should be manually moved before turning off your computer or going to sleep.
About 12 months ago, I began practicing the habit of awaking in the morning to an inbox full of messages that weren’t there the prior night. Clearing your inbox is simple and involves two simple steps: create a folder and move everything in your inbox to that folder.
Your goal every day is to cycle through the “to do” folder so it’s empty in case you need to move your inbox messages there. Failure causes that limbo folder’s messages to accumulate and cause unnecessary stress.
3. Control your urge to constantly check new emails.
This GMail bookmarklet enables you to click the button in your browser whenever you want to send a message. A window will pop open to prompt you to fill-in your recipient’s address, write a subject line, write a body of content, and attach a file — and send the message without distractions of seeing or checking for new messages.
Wouldn’t you rather click the “check new mail” button and see a message, rather than click it and see nothing because you previously clicked the button fifteen minutes earlier?
If that email was urgent for your response, either you’d know of the email’s arrival or the sender would know how to reach you otherwise.
And, for those of you who claim your nature of business doesn’t allow you to respond later, think of it this way: What if you were driven to the emergency room for a appendicitis surgery and couldn’t check email? Life goes on.
4. Unsubscribe to unnecessary commercial newsletters.
It is common for marketing companies and brands to send you newsletters, coupons, and other forms of both solicited and unsolicited spam because you provided your email address somewhere online. This is not say you shouldn’t share your address but be cognizant that the terms of service of some websites allow your address to be shared with their partners.
Commercial email in the United States is regulated by the federal CAN-SPAM Act which essentially says companies must identify themselves and they face penalties if they don’t offer you a way to unsubscribe efficiently.
Unless you read those weekly or monthly commercial emails, why delete them every time when you can unsubscribe?
5. Review your spam folder now and then.
If you opt to receive this blog by email, you will receive a confirmation email with a verification link to click. But that confirmation email sometimes is automatically moved to your spam folder for no reason other than the arbitrary rules of email providers.
Ditto for other emails you may receive. If a friend or colleague asked you why you didn’t respond to such-and-such email message last week and you have no recollection receiving it and can’t find it in your folders, check the spam folder.
Once you are satisfied with the amount of time you spend with email, head over to Dave Fleet’s blog and learn five more tips to reduce the volume of messages you receive, such as ceasing the urge to click ‘reply all’ and replying by other media if applicable.
Do you like the photograph of a 1968 water meter by an Australian company called Email Limited? You can thank Tama Leaver on Flickr for it.
Related articles you may enjoy:
- How to Clear Your Email Inbox in 2 Steps
- 6 Readers Share Why They Read Blogs by Email
- When Your Email Message is Bounced