Manage Your Emails! Don’t Let Them Manage You!

Managing daily emails continues to be one of the biggest challenges for busy managers and career professionals. Yet, the ability to quickly read, absorb, process information and to action what is relevant is an emergent skill for successful professionals today.

Here are a few tips to help you manage your emails:

Reduce the frequency of checking your inbox. Consider only checking your email once or twice daily at specifically scheduled timeslots for a limited time allocated. Just because people can get in touch with you by email or text instantly doesn’t mean you have to be available instantly to respond. Determine what’s reasonable within your company or department and then be consistent and organized about when and how you respond to your emails.

Utilize “rules”. Your email management system may have a “rules” feature to allow you to stream your emails into specific separate file folders. Set up separate file folders by project, or by a particular person. It makes sorting and scanning a breeze.

Touch incoming emails once. After reading the email; delete it, file it, forward it, action it or flag it for a future date and remove it from your inbox. Leaving it in your inbox will only clutter your inbox making it difficult to find or deal with later.

Be a good role model for others. Get in the habit of practicing good email etiquette. Label the emails you send to others to make it easier for them to read and process your emails by using abbreviations in your subject lines followed by the topic. For example: FYI (for your information), URG (urgent), ACT (action required), CC (copied). Ask your colleagues and direct reports to do the same. It will be much easier to handle incoming emails in an effective and timely manner.

Don’t be part of the problem. Don’t clog other people’s inboxes by copying everyone you can think of on an email. If you do have to forward an email to someone, make sure you summarize why you are sending them the email, or highlight the key points you are drawing their attention to. This will save them time reading through the several pages of forwarded email.

Set boundaries or guidelines. Let direct reports and colleagues know what you wish to be copied on and what you don’t. Establish some guidelines for how you will keep others informed or how you wish to be kept informed, email isn’t always the best way or the only way to communicate.

Practice effective communication. Don’t assume email or texts will be your best or fastest way of communication. Determine the nature, sensitivity and context of the communication and then determine if it’s best to call, email or meet face to face. It’s way too easy to send a quick text or email but sometimes that can create issues that weren’t there in the first place.

Managing emails can be a nuisance but it is manageable. Make sure you are contributing to proactive manageable solutions rather than being part of the problem.

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