Master Productivity: Email Management Best Practices for Work
How Long Do You Spend on Emails Everyday at Work?
Probably quite a good portion of your day, am I right? From communicating with colleagues and clients to managing projects and deadlines, email is an integral part of our daily routine. However, as the use of email continues to grow, so does the challenge of managing it effectively.
According to a study by McKinsey & Company, the average worker spends nearly a third of their workweek on email-related tasks. 🤯
And this number can be even higher for managers and executives.
With so much time spent on email, it's crucial to have effective email management skills to stay productive and efficient.
In this article, we'll explore the best practices for managing your work emails. We'll cover everything from adopting the zero inbox method to using tools and filters to streamline your email workflow.
So whether you're looking to improve your efficiency or enhance your email management skills, these tips will help you keep your inbox organized and under control. Because who doesn't want to be a master of productivity?
20 Best Practices for Managing Your Work Emails
Managing your emails can be overwhelming, but with these best practices, you can turn your inbox into a productive tool for work.
Here are some tips to help you manage your emails effectively.
Inbox Zero Method
The inbox zero method is a popular approach to email management that involves achieving a clutter-free inbox by processing all emails and organizing them efficiently.
It's like spring cleaning your inbox!
The method has four basic steps that can be adapted to suit your needs and preferences.
- Unsubscribe from any email lists or newsletters that are no longer relevant or interesting. This helps to reduce the volume of incoming emails and ensures that your inbox only contains messages that are important to you. Say goodbye to those weekly product updates from a tool you never used!
- Create folders or labels to organize the remaining emails. This helps to group similar messages together and makes it easier to find specific emails when you need them. Plus, it looks super organized and makes you feel like a boss!
- Create rules or filters to automatically sort incoming emails. This can help to reduce the amount of manual effort required to organize your inbox and can ensure that important emails are prioritized. Set up rules like, "any email from my boss goes straight to the top of my inbox."
- Process each email in your inbox. This involves reviewing each message, deciding what action is required, and then taking that action. For example, you might delete irrelevant messages, respond to urgent emails, or file important messages in a specific folder. Take control of your inbox and tackle each email like a boss.
While having an empty inbox may not be for everyone, regularly cleaning up and organizing your inbox can have significant benefits like helping you prioritize important messages and making it easier to find the information you need when you need it. Who doesn't love a tidy inbox and a little extra productivity in their day?
Use Labels and Folders
Labels and folders are helpful tools for managing your inbox and can be utilized in various ways. Here are some practical ways to use them:
- By project or client: Create labels or folders for each project or client you're handling. This way, you can easily find and refer to all related emails in one place, making it easier to manage your work and deadlines.
- By category: Use labels or folders to categorize emails by types, such as newsletters, promotions, or social media updates. This will enable you to prioritize which messages to read or delete, and keep your inbox free from unnecessary emails.
- By priority: Establish labels or folders for emails that require urgent attention or follow-up. This might include emails from important clients or urgent requests. This will help you manage your critical tasks and prevent important emails from being lost in your inbox.
- By status: Use labels or folders to monitor the status of emails, such as emails that require a response, emails waiting for a reply, or emails that have been completed. This will assist you in staying organized and ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks.
The key is to use labels and folders in a way that suits your particular needs. By organizing your inbox with labels and folders, you'll be able to save time, reduce stress, and stay on top of your email workload.
Take Advantage of a Calendar
Using a calendar with your email can be an effective way to manage your time and stay on top of important tasks. Email management software programs like Missive offer a built-in calendar feature that allows you to easily schedule appointments, meetings, and reminders right from your email inbox.
One of the benefits of using a calendar is that it helps with time management. You can schedule and manage your time effectively, ensuring that you have sufficient time for important tasks and appointments. By setting reminders, you can also make sure that you don't miss critical deadlines, appointments, or follow-ups on your communications.
Moreover, a shared calendar can be an excellent collaboration tool. It enables you to coordinate with your colleagues and schedule meetings more efficiently, saving time and reducing unnecessary back-and-forth emails.
By integrating your calendar with your email inbox, you can quickly view all of your upcoming events and deadlines in one place. This can help you stay on track and prioritize tasks without having to switch between your emails and a separate calendar app.
Another helpful tip is to set specific times in your calendar to check and respond to emails.
Set Aside Dedicated Time for Emails
One way to manage your email more effectively is to set aside dedicated time for checking and responding to messages. By doing so, you can avoid the constant distraction of incoming emails and stay focused on other tasks throughout the day.
For example, you might set aside 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon to check and respond to emails. During this time, you can focus solely on your inbox and work through messages in a deliberate and organized manner.
It's also important to avoid checking your email first thing in the morning. When you check your email as soon as you wake up, you may find yourself immediately caught up in other people's priorities and needs, rather than focusing on your own goals and tasks for the day. Instead, try to begin your day with a proactive task, such as exercise, meditation, or planning out your schedule for the day.
By setting aside dedicated time for emails and avoiding the temptation to constantly check your inbox, you can help ensure that you're using your time and energy in the most effective way possible.
Use Canned Responses
Canned responses are pre-written templates or messages that can be quickly inserted into an email for common scenarios, such as responding to customer inquiries or sending out meeting reminders. This email management technique can save you time and help improve consistency in your email communication.
Some email tools like Missive even allow you to customize canned responses with variables to fit each individual situation. By using response templates, your responses are consistent and more detailed since you won't have to write the same email on the fly every time.
Unsubscribe to Undesired Newsletters
Unsubscribing from newsletters and promotional emails that are no longer relevant or that you no longer have interest in is another email management best practice that can help reduce email clutter and improve your productivity. With fewer unnecessary emails in your inbox, you'll have more time to focus on important messages.
Follow the Two-Minute Rule
The Two-Minute Rule is a popular email management technique that can help you stay on top of your email inbox and prevent it from becoming cluttered with small tasks that can quickly add up.
The basic idea behind the rule is that if an email can be addressed in two minutes or less, you should do it right away.
For other emails, set a pre-determined time every week to handle them. Labels can also be useful for categorizing emails you won't be handling right away and keeping your inbox tidy.
Turn off Notifications
Being bombarded by a constant flow of notifications can really hinder your focus and productivity. Turning off email notifications is a good practice that can help you stay on track with your tasks.
Let’s be honest, do you really need to be notified and take action on your emails as soon as you receive them? Probably not.
So why not go ahead and turn off notifications? This can be done by disabling email alerts entirely or only for periods when you want to be focused. By disabling notifications when you receive emails, you’ll be able to reduce your distractions, making you more productive.
Alternatively, you could use rules to only receive notifications if you receive emails from a specific sender or with a particular subject line.
Leveraging AI in your email can be a powerful way to save time, improve efficiency, and get more out of your email communications. By taking advantage of advanced features such as smart replies and email categorization, you can stay on top of your email inbox and achieve your goals more effectively.
Most AI email assistants can understand the context of a conversation and provide relevant replies, so you can handle your emails in less time. For example, with the OpenAI integration in Missive, you can generate new emails, replies and translate messages.
Touch It Once
The "touch it once" principle is another popular email management technique that can help you stay on top of your inbox and prevent messages from piling up.
The way it works is quite straightforward:
When you open an email, take action on it right away.
Here's how it works:
- When you open an email, read it carefully and take action on it right away. This could mean responding to the email, delegating the task to someone else, or archiving it.
- Avoid leaving emails sitting in your inbox for extended periods of time. The longer an email sits in your inbox, the more likely it is to get buried or forgotten about.
- If you can't take immediate action on an email, file it away in a designated folder or label, or use the snooze feature to set a reminder to follow up later.
By adopting the "touch it once" principle, you can reduce the need to revisit emails multiple times, which can save time and improve efficiency.
Use the 4D Method
One email management technique that can help you quickly triage your inbox and stay organized is the 4D method. Here's how it works:
- Delete: If an email is irrelevant or not important, delete it right away.
- Delegate: If a communication requires someone else's attention or action, delegate the email to the appropriate person. This could mean forwarding the email to a colleague or scheduling a meeting.
- Do: If an email can be completed quickly and easily, take action on it right away. This could mean responding to the email, completing a task, or scheduling a meeting.
- Defer: If an email requires more time or attention, defer it by filing it away in a designated folder or using a task management tool to set a reminder to follow up later.
By using the 4D method to triage your inbox, you can quickly prioritize emails and stay on top of important messages.
Set Specific Times to Check Your Email
Checking your email constantly can be a major distraction and can disrupt your workflow. Instead, try setting specific times throughout the day to check and respond to emails. This will help you stay focused on your work and prevent email from taking up too much of your time.
Choose a schedule that works best for you and your job requirements. For example, you might check your email first thing in the morning, after lunch, and before leaving for the day. By setting specific times to check your email, you'll be able to better manage your time and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Use To-Dos to Break Emails into Tasks
Using to-do items to break emails into tasks can be helpful and allows you to stay on top of important tasks to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Here's a good approach to using a to-do to break emails into tasks:
- Review your inbox: Identify any emails that require action to be taken. It could include responding to emails, scheduling a meeting, or completing a task.
- Create a to-do item: Once you've identified an email that requires an action, create a to-do item for it in your task management tool. Be sure to include any relevant information from the email, such as deadlines or important details.
- Prioritize your tasks: Once you've created to-do items for each email, prioritize them based on urgency and importance. This can help you stay focused on the most important tasks and ensure that you're making progress on your goals.
- Take action: Finally, take action on each to-do item as quickly as possible. This could mean responding to the email, completing a task, or scheduling a meeting.
Some email clients, like Missive, might even come with task management built-in or offer integration with to-do tools like Todoist to make the process even easier.
Follow-Up on Important Emails
To ensure important emails don't slip through the cracks, it's important to follow up on emails that require a response. One way to do this is by scheduling a follow-up email using email management tools like Missive's auto-follow-up button. However, it's important to give the recipient enough time to respond before sending a follow-up email.
A good rule of thumb is to wait three business days before sending a follow-up email. This shows that you are respectful of their time and not overly pushy.
Set Up Rules and Filters
Setting up rules and filters can be a great way to manage your inbox effectively. Here's a simple framework to get started:
- Identify the types of emails you receive: Start by identifying the types of emails you receive on a regular basis. This could include emails from specific people or groups, emails with certain keywords, or emails that meet other criteria.
- Set up filters: Once you've identified the types of emails you receive, set up filters to automatically sort those emails into folders or labels. For example, you could create a filter that automatically labels all emails from a specific sender as "Priority."
- Adjust your filters as needed: Be sure to adjust your filters as needed to ensure that they are working effectively. This could mean adding new filters, deleting old ones, or adjusting the criteria used to sort emails.
Rules can also be a great way to perform automatic actions to save you time. You can find some ideas for creating rules in Missive's rules and templates feature.
Take Advantage of a Shared Inbox
For teams that need to collaborate effectively and stay organized, using a shared inbox can be a valuable tool. A shared inbox allows for improved collaboration, streamlined communication, task delegation, greater transparency, and improved efficiency.
By using a shared inbox, team members can access the same messages in one place, assign tasks to specific team members, stay informed about important conversations and decisions, and reduce the time and effort required to manage their inboxes.
Overall, a shared inbox can help teams work more effectively together and achieve their goals.
Use Email Signatures
Using email signatures can be a great way to save time and personalize your emails. A signature is a block of text that is automatically inserted at the bottom of every email you send. It can include your name, title, contact information, and any other relevant details.
With Missive, you can create custom signatures that automatically update with your latest contact information. This can help you save time and ensure your contact information is always accurate and up-to-date.
Start a New Email Thread When Necessary
Starting a new email thread when necessary can help you stay organized and avoid confusion in your inbox. When you receive an email on a new topic or subject, it's a good idea to start a new thread rather than reply to an existing one. This makes it easier to keep track of related messages and find specific information later on.
When starting a new email thread, make sure to include a descriptive subject line that accurately reflects the content of the message. This can help recipients understand the context of the email and prioritize it accordingly. Additionally, be sure to address the email to the appropriate recipients and include any necessary attachments or links.
Starting a new email thread can also be helpful when you need to follow up on a previous conversation or ask a new question. By starting a new thread, you can ensure that your message is clear and easy to understand and that the recipient has all the information they need to respond.
While it can be tempting to try to tackle multiple emails at once, multitasking can actually be counterproductive. Studies have shown that multitasking can reduce productivity and increase the likelihood of errors and mistakes.
Instead of trying to juggle multiple emails at once, try to focus on one email at a time. This will help you stay focused and ensure that you're giving each message the attention it deserves.
Use Tools for Email Management
Using email management tools can be a great way to manage your inbox more efficiently and effectively. There are many tools available that offer a variety of features to help you streamline your email workflow. This software will make it even easier to adopt the best practices we have explored.
Here are some reasons why using tools designed for email management like Missive can be beneficial:
- Collaboration: If you’re working with a team, you might want to consider a collaboration email client. With a shared inbox, like the one offered by Missive, you can collaborate more effectively with your colleagues, assign tasks, and track conversations.
- Organization: Email management tools can help you organize your inbox by automatically categorizing messages, creating filters, and highlighting important messages.
- Efficiency: By using features like canned responses and email templates, you can save time and effort by not having to write the same email over and over again.
- Reminders: Tools like Missive allow you to set reminders to follow up on important messages, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
By using an email management tool you can take advantage of all of these features and more to manage your inbox more efficiently and effectively. If you’re a Gmail user, you might want to look at the best email clients for Gmail.
By adopting these best practices, you can manage your work emails more effectively and improve your productivity at work. Remember to tailor these practices to your specific needs and preferences, and don't be afraid to experiment with new techniques to find what works best for you.