I was thinking back when dial up internet was an amazing new thing – remember that god awful noise that would signal you were ’connecting’? You would sit there in suspence as to whether you were actually going to establish a connection or if someone in the house would pick up the phone to make a call (not knowing you were trying to connect to the net) and cut you off mid internet-connect-shreak, leaving you to start the whole 10min ordeal all over again, lol, wow. Remember when ICQ was ‘the’ instant messenger (I still hear that ‘uh oh’ in my head) and when it took 20 minuties to download one song from Napster. This was the time when patience was lived and breathed. I remember when I got my first email account. Everyone was coming up wtih ‘hip’ email addresses – rockstar908, palooza34, sweetiepie45 - mine was junior_002, that’s right, it rocked. I also remember only checking my email every few days, spending maybe 15mins responding to them.
Well well times have changed, I took a quick scan of my multiple inboxes (facebook, 2 hotmail accounts, gmail) and was blown away by the amount of unread messeges I have: Hotmail accounts – 412 and 97 respectively, gmail account: 66 and facebook inbox: 79, YIKES? how did this happen??! While I’ll admit that alot of the emails are ones I can let slide (groupons etc.), there are important messeges in there that I’m terrified to miss!
I needed a system, so one of my to-do’s this weekend was to find a process, a system for checking, responding, filing and in general, being better at emails, so I went on a hunt…
I’ve compiled a few tid bits that helped me and hopefully they’ll help you manage and prioritize your email. This is by no means an exhaustive list and I would LOVE your tips and advice on what you’ve done to take control of your inboxes and manage your emails better!!
1. Read it, answer it - Often times, I’ll read an email with the best intention to answer it and then get distracted and forget about it. Enough is enough, I’m going to read it, and unless I need to seek additional information first, I’ll answer it.
2. Make Folders and Labels - love these and I have lots! Not only did I make folders for different people, business functions etc. but also for emails that are just ‘information’ and don’t need to be acted on and ‘action’ emails that need to me to do something right now, in a week, in the future. Another good one is to tag your most important emails with ‘Reply ASAP’, or an equivalent. Less urgent tasks can be marked ‘To Do’, while the least urgent ones can be tagged with something like ‘Later’.
3. Using bridging emails – We’ve probably all been in a situation where we sent an email and then waited and waited for a reply and started thinking and making up stories: Did they get it? Did I have the right email? Are they on vacation? Do I send it again? I really don’t want to be bugging them! – no one wants to be ’that’ person (this situation is just awkward). So when you read an email and don’t have time to do a full reply right away, send a short reply simply letting them know you got the message, can’t write a full reply right now, and give them a time frame when you think you’ll be able to get back to them and then file it in your ‘to-do’ folder. This is a win-win! – they have an ‘ok’ to follow up with you again if you haven’t replied by the time you said you would and if you forget you will get reminded by them.
4. Unsubscribe. Do I really need to still be receving emails from the gym I used to go to when I lived in Nelson about up and coming programs? Although I love that gym and the people, probably not.
5. Use the subject line to summarize the email when nessecary - who made it a rule that subject lines can only be 1 or 2 words?
6. Archive it after you read it and dealt with it.
Other things I’m going to try but haven’t yet…
1. Forward all emails to one account so you only have to manage one instead of 4 or 5 – not going to lie, this scares me a bit…
2. Process emails in batches – set aside times to check and drain your inbox. If your responding all day, that’s all you’ll ever be doing – I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one, as urgent emails do come up.
This was also an interesting article from HBS called Tips for Mastering Email Overload. It is geared mainly toward work email and talks about how to both be a better sender of emails for the sake of the person on the other end who is also up to their ears in emails to answer and also how to better manage your own.
Your thoughts and email managing tips advice are very welcome!
Till Next Time…