A lot of us won’t be too familiar with emails when we enter the workplace, and it can be quite stressful learning how to deal with a busy inbox. With the average office worker receiving 121 emails per day, it’s questionable how there’s any time to get on with your actual work.
Every workplace will differ with how they use their emails and what they suggest for reducing inbox-associated stress, so make sure to ask if you’re a bit stuck. But here are some general tips for how you can sort your inbox and be more mindful of your inbox.
*Please be advised: this post may only be relevant to some industries and lines of work*
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Make a decision about the email
Author of Get your inbox down to zero, Graham Allcott, suggests that there are only seven possible actions for every email that comes into your inbox. These are:
- Delete it
- Do it now (if it takes a minute or two, then do it)
- Do it later
- If it doesn’t need an action, file it away
- Delegate it to someone else to do
- Defer the decision – add the task to your calendar
- Decide whether you want to keep it to ensure someone else replies
So if an email comes through while you’re in your inbox or have the time to look at it, see what it’s asking of you and make a decision about it.
If you’d like to know more about this, you can grab a copy of this book here.
From the start, try to create folders under your inbox for each area of work you do or for internal emails, whatever you fancy. Whenever you receive an email and have made an action as above, you can move it to the designated folder where it’s then stored out of your way and ready whenever you need it.
If you’re months into your job, don’t worry, you can still start doing this. You could title a folder Pre-January 2019 and then file all current emails into this, and from that point begin assigning any new emails that you receive into their relevant folders.
No one wants to see their inbox total get to 10,000+ and it’ll soon approach that. It’s much nicer to see 0 at the end of the day or week.
Don’t let your inbox control you
When an email comes through, that does not mean that you need to respond to it or sort it straight away. Set yourself times during the day to check your inbox and make sure that everything is dealt with, then check it again after a certain amount of time.
This will vary depending on your role but it could be that you check and respond to emails at 9am, 12pm, 2pm and 4:30pm, meaning you don’t miss the important things that come through early morning or just before finishing.
You could also put your app into ‘offline mode’ so that you can still see existing emails and hold responses in your outbox, but no new emails can come in and distract you.
Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list
You should think of your main inbox as a place where your emails land, simply waiting for you to sort them, rather than until you’re finished with them.
If you make yourself a to-do list for your work, this could be handwritten or using Microsoft’s to-do app, then any tasks that come from an email can be added to that. This means you will have one universal list of jobs so you don’t get confused what all your actions are and where you’ve noted them down.
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by emails and the pressure of responding, actioning and sorting them too much then it’s important you speak to someone within your team. Setting yourself key windows for dealing with emails can often be a more productive way to work, so see if this is possible within your job.
If you’re finding work stressful in general, you can find some advice over here.
How do you find yourself best dealing with emails? Leave a comment below and help others out!