How annoying is it when you come back from holiday or a long weekend to find an inbox crammed with unread messages to plough through?
It’s no surprise your inbox gets crowded quickly when you consider that 100bn work-related emails are sent every day worldwide, according to a report by Radicati.
Take back control of an out-of-control inbox, and avoid future stress by managing it with our helpful tips.
Overcrowded email inbox? Start by clearing it out
Is the ‘unread’ number slowly creeping up in your inbox? There’s no way you can get through 100 emails before lunch, but there’s no reason to panic – you don’t need to.
Start by filtering your emails by date, with the most recent at top. Then pick a cut-off date and delete any emails that arrived before then – if it’s important the sender will have contacted you again or they’ll be in touch.
Pick a time to check your email – and stick to it
When an email notification pings up on screen it’s tempting to open the message straight away and drop whatever else it is you’re doing.
The thought of all those messages piling up seems stressful, but it’s actually been proven to be much more efficient to have set times in the day reserved for tackling your inbox.
It could be on the hour, or even as little as twice a day – whatever works for you. You can plan your day around it, and in that time you’ll be able to focus entirely on your inbox.
Turn off your notifications
You might even want to turn off your notifications altogether – that way there’s no distractions while you’re getting other tasks done.
To turn off your notifications in Outlook:
- go to File>Options>Mail
- under the Message arrival tab uncheck Display a Desktop Alert
Manage your time when replying
When it comes to replying to emails, prioritise any quick hits over longer messages – then you can get them out the way before taking on the more time-consuming tasks.
If an email requires a simple reply like a quick ‘thanks’ or a note giving something the go-ahead, then respond to it first. Flag anything that requires more time and come back to it afterwards.
Action low-priority emails
Be the boss of your inbox, not the other way round. If you don’t need to handle an email directly and can action it to someone else – don’t fret about forwarding it on with some instructions.
Create folders that file your emails for you
Did you know that you can set up rules to direct your emails to the right folder? For instance all your social notifications go directly to a ‘Social’ folder or important work emails go to your ‘Work’ folder.
Gmail does this automatically – and flags important emails. You can also set this up on Outlook by following a few simple steps.
Take care of yesterday’s emails before moving on
Start each morning by clearing out the previous day’s emails to keep the numbers in your main inbox down.
You can do this by asking yourself a few questions – have they been dealt with? If so, archive them. Do they need resolving? Flag them and add them to your to-do list as a priority.
As a rule, don’t start tackling the next set of emails until you’ve taken care of yesterday’s.
Know when email isn’t the best option
It may be super-speedy and efficient, but sometimes email isn’t the best way to get the information you want across.
If sending an email is going to confuse the recipient and open up a long chain of questions, it might be easier – and faster – to pick up the phone or speak to someone face-to-face.