How many emails do you have in your inbox today? 3, 30, 300, 3000? Every day we have to deal with the constant demand of email. Constantly streaming into our account, constantly distracting us from our real tasks at hand. Below are 3 sure-fire methods that I have found to maximise my inbox manageability. I use these methods every day, and truly believe they help me manage my email quicker so that I can get on to bigger and better tasks.
Before we start, I will be referring to a fictional person to provide some examples.
Joe Bloggs is a colleague of ours. We have been working closely for well over a year, and exchange emails daily across many subjects ranging from client information to administration to projects.
Now that you have that in your mind, let us proceed.
1. Conversation View
You have been away from your inbox for a period of time, and upon returning you find many, many, unread emails. Where do you start? Well, from the earliest, I guess. As you make your way through the emails, you reply to one of them. Only to find that there have been further conversations since that one email! You feel like the village idiot. How many times has that happened? Too many, I would imagine. But it’s ok, you can’t be expected to follow the whole conversation, can you?
The easiest way to stop that from happening again is to enable ‘Conversation View’. What this does, is group all emails with the same subject line into one line as a ‘conversation’. This allows us to see a whole email conversation in one go. No more, will we look like the village idiot.
Some of us use a fantastic filing system for our emails (or no filing system at all). Some people have many folders separated by clients, business departments, or categories. Others have no system, where all emails simply stay in the inbox – ending up with thousands upon thousands of items. Both these methods add clutter and confusion.
“But I know where my emails are” you might argue – Do you? Really?. Can you find me an email that was filed 6 months ago? The one that you know Joe Bloggs sent you about productivity…”Sure, it’s in this folder over here – after many minutes of scrolling not found. I may have put it in that folder – not found after many more minutes of scrolling. Hmm, I’m sure it must be in that folder – not found.”
I’ve found that filing emails into one folder (and setting up the Conversation View) really keeps things simple. Simple means easy to find. Easy to find also means piece of mind. Gmail has been doing this for many years, and it just works.
My personal filing structure is pretty basic. One folder to denote where the emails are to be filed, and then sub-folders for each year. If I need to find an email that Joe Bloggs sent to me 6 months ago, all I need to remember is which year that would fall under, go to that folder and simply search for Joe Bloggs. Which brings me to the third item on today’s list…
Search functionality has been designed for a specific reason. That is to find data by typing key words so that we don’t have to manually scroll and read everything ourselves. I can’t tell you how many countless hours I’ve wasted trying to find that one email when not using search. It’s true that search functionality isn’t always the best, but it still works.
A trick that I’ve found quite beneficial, is to search for key words that you remember in the email. Let’s take that 6 month old email from Joe Bloggs as an example. If simply searching ‘Joe Bloggs’ or ‘Bloggs’ in our email folder, we will still be scrolling through many (many!) emails. That simply won’t do. However, I do remember the email referenced productivity somewhere in the email trail. In turn, refining the search to ‘Bloggs productivity’ has returned 2 emails. Bingo!
Search is a wonderful tool that will cut down essential minutes of your time when trying to find a specific email. The beauty of Conversation View is that upon finding that specific email, the entire email conversation that went with it is visible automatically.
These 3 core methods of email management have greatly benefited me in my daily email routine. I swear by them, and don’t doubt that they are the foundation of how I manage my emails efficiently. By no means are these the only 3 methods to use, they are simply a starting point. I’m a huge believer that keeping things simple, and using certain clutter-free views, hugely benefit productivity. The faster you can see something, the quicker your brain can process a decision.
I’m always adapting to new methods and ways of doing things to increase my productivity. I would love you hear about the methods you have found beneficial. Feel free to @ me on Twitter or comment on this article.