Emails can be a detriment to a planned productive day. You receive a new email notification, and you tell yourself that answering this one email will not take much time. Before you know, two hours have passed, and a large portion of the day is lost. Or, the inbox is full of unread emails that you more than likely will not read. A prior colleague had 1,548 unread emails in her inbox. After she left her position, the company gave me the email box to review and determine if there were any important emails. Unfortunately, there was a grant email that needed immediate attention two months prior. Because she didn’t respond to the email, the organization lost a $10,000 grant reimbursement. Clearly, keeping your email box organized will keep you from losing time or money.
Here are seven tips to manage and tame email inboxes.
- Avoid Group Emails that Don’t Pertain to You – Within our organization, some individuals like to ensure they have all the bases covered and copy a litany of individuals on an email. Respond to whoever sent the email that they can remove you from further communication regarding the matter and that “John Doe” on the team handles those issues and will provide updates.
- Member Organization and Industry Information Emails – Waking up in the morning, you notice that fifteen new emails arrived overnight, all from member organization and industry emails. Being current on matters from professional organizations and regulatory information is critical. This information provides guidance in the decision-making process, keeps you current on trends, and helps with networking. The key is to set up email boxes where information emails automatically direct, then at your leisure, review the information. Set aside a one-hour meeting on the calendar with yourself, shut the office door, and go through those targeted emails and determine if they are worth reading.
- Talk to the Introverts – Lazy Luke (or maybe he’s just an introvert) never wants to move from his desk; he sits approximately two feet from you. You can hear him breathe, yet he insists on sending one-line emails, “Can you look at the vacation accrual account with me?” He clogs the inbox with at least ten or more emails a day that he could easily stand up, walk over and communicate. To resolve and eliminate these emails, never answer his request via email. Walk over to his desk, and answer his question. Frame the response, “Luke, I got your email, but it would be more efficient to have this discussion in person. If this isn’t a good time just let me know when is.”
- Reports, Project Updates, Recurring Information Emails – Determine if reports and project updates that are recurring information emails can be stored as files on a shared server or a cloud-based solution. Having a place to store files will easily allow the team to review the information. For example, we keep balance sheet reconciliation schedules on a folder on the shared server to allow accounting staff to access and review.
- Blocker Sender and Junk Email – Allow the email software to work as designed. Utilize the block sender and junk email functions. If you continually get emails for sales information from an unwanted source, block the sender.
- Email Organization – Move emails from the inbox to another folder in the email software. This organization system has to be in a manner in which you can operate efficiently. For example, I created an “In Progress Folder,” which has subfolders on current projects. Whenever I get an email regarding this project, I respond as necessary and then move that email to the project folder. I arrange the In Progress Folder by order of priority. Currently, my first five folders in order are 990 filings, Tentative Training (awaiting approval), Short Term – Long Term Loan, Purchasing Cards, and Payroll Open Issues. After the project is complete, I will either delete or archive the emails in a folder on the server or within the email software.
- Other Team Member’s Responsibility – You get an email and know the answer, but this isn’t your primary job responsibility. Fight the urge to provide the answer to the sender. Reply to the sender, add the appropriate party that the question should have directed, and then note in the message of the email a similar response, “Pam Smith, our payroll accountant, would be the appropriate person to direct the question. I have copied her in this email. There is no need to include me in future correspondence on this matter.”
Don’t let a mountain of emails stress you out. Keep organized and save time by following these tips, and be sure to read our blog for more helpful information.