Some people get anxiety attacks over the status of their email inbox. They see 2500+ unread emails and they ignore the stack completely, only responding to their latest messages. Others are simply too busy to deal with emails as they come, only to find that it becomes an hours-long problem they have to deal with at the end of the day.
If you have email organization problems, you're probably adding several hours of work and even more hours of mental stress to your week. A clean inbox means you're communicating well, you're on top of your own productivity, and you're aware of everything important sent your way. Great email habits lead to a happier workday, filled with important tasks instead of inbox cleanup.
Here are some great email habits you should develop to make every workday just a bit easier:
Inbox Zero is the first and best habit you should build when it comes to your email workflow. The concept is about ending each day with your inbox empty and all emails read, responded to, archived, or deleted. This is a great way to prevent your email from piling up and sneaking up on you later in the week, and it’s the best way to ensure that you don’t miss anything important.
Every day, rigorously follow a pattern of reading and responding to every single email you receive. If you get an email from a co-worker or your boss, reply as soon as you see it and organize it when necessary. If you get a newsletter, glance at it and see if it’s relevant. If not, delete it and move on. Set aside time at the end of each day to read and respond to any emails that don’t need immediate action and require a more thorough reply.
Labels, labels, labels
Labels should be your best friend if you want to run an efficient and productive email system. However, the diligence required in labeling all your emails isn’t for the unorganized -- skip labeling if you’re the type of person that isn’t likely to stick with it past the first few weeks.
Create 4-5 different labels for your main email topics. If you’re an organized person, create sub-labels within labels for further searchability. For example, if you’re a marketing professional, one of your labels may be Press, and a few sub-labels could include Journalists, Partners, and Influencers. Another might be Advertising with sub-labels such as Paid Ads or Earned Media.
Every email you receive should receive an appropriate label at the time of opening. Making this a habit will help you get to Inbox Zero quickly while still being able to dive into a label to find relevant emails whenever necessary. You’ll rarely have to think about tricky search terms to find the right email because you’ll only have to search within a label. This will save you a ton of time and effort in recalling conversations or building a pipeline for how you interact with people.
Quick response times
If you get a marketing email, notification, or spam, read and archive or delete it immediately. If an important email can be replied to in 2 minutes or less, reply immediately. Quick response times to these types of emails will get them out of your to-do, leaving you with a less intimidating smaller list of higher-effort conversations to deal with later.
This is one of the healthiest habits you can develop when it comes to a manageable email inbox. Not only will it prevent you from forgetting to reply to small but important emails, you’ll also gain a reputation for being a reliable and effective communicator. People won’t need to bombard you with follow-ups -- you’ve already handled it!
If all else fails… unsubscribe!
Using all these tactics and still not catching up with your email? It’s time to start unsubscribing from the tens (or even hundreds!) of newsletters that bother you every single day. Want to go all out and start with a clean slate? Try a service like Unroll.Me, which will allow you to batch unsubscribe from any or every email newsletter that you’re subscribed to.
If this seems like too much, start unsubscribing on an as-you-go basis. When a newsletter comes in, give it a read-through. Is it still applicable to you? Does the content merit your time? If the answer is no, scroll to the bottom and hit unsubscribe. Keep doing this and you’ll notice a visible reduction in your daily email workload!