Email – the great productivity killer. We all wish for an empty inbox without wasting half the workday sifting through messages. With the right tactics, a few useful tools, and some smart sorting, you can get out of your inbox and get some work done. Finally.
Don’t Start The Day In Your Inbox
One sure-fire way to kill your morning productivity is to start the day with email. Yet so many of us find ourselves there before we even start any real work tasks. It’s even worse if you check your email before you get to work. You begin by answering some quick emails, then you’re scheduling tasks, and suddenly it’s lunch time but you’ve got nothing to show for your time.
Avoid falling into this time killing trap. Don’t check your email at home in the morning. Even better, wait until you’ve accomplished some big tasks before popping into your inbox.
Use Smart Sorting Methods
Way back in the early days of email, sorting was pretty limited. Now Webmail programs such as Gmail are outfitted with brilliant sorting tools. Web apps that plug into mail programs give you even more flexibility for managing messages you haven’t even seen yet. The trick to using these tools is making sure that they enable you to get through your inbox faster, rather than just put messages where you can’t see them or make more work for yourself later.
- Filters: One of the best tools in your arsenal is filters. Most modern webmail accounts have this functionality built right in. Create filters based on a keyword, sender, domain, attachments, and other variables. For example, create a filter in Gmail that tags all mail containing “My Current Project Name” with the tag “Current Project.” Use another filter to tag and archive messages that aren’t important as “Read Later.” This keeps them out of your inbox without burying them so deep you forget to read them.
- Alerts: Use the filters to set up mobile alerts for the most important incoming mail. Using the previous example, you can set up an alert in the mobile app for all mail tagged “Current Project” which will sound a notification tone, pop-up, or vibrate to let you know when something urgent comes in.
- Alternate Address: If other sorting methods seem too confusing to set up, one simple answer is to set up separate email addresses. One for urgent, business matters and the other for everything else. Of course, you’ll still be sifting through business emails, but at least you won’t have look at that email from your Great-Aunt WriteHerBackAlready during your work day.
Look For App Integration
If you’re already using project management or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, make sure you know its integration capabilities. You may have time saving tools already available to you without knowing it. For example, Insightly’s Gmail Gadget can be used in Gmail on Google Apps domains. It adds quick links right inside Gmail for adding contacts, associating the message and contact with a task, opportunity, project, or event. You can save the email to Insightly and link it to other items.
Use End Of Message (EOM)
When sending quick notices via email, use this acronym at the end of your subject line. This lets you put the whole message in the subject line, followed by EOM. Your recipient can see it and delete it immediately without even opening the message. If you get your whole team doing this, you’ll see pop-up alerts on your phone that contain the subject line and get the whole message without even having to open your email app.
Maybe none of us will ever achieve that Zero Inbox, but with the right tools and tactics, you can spend a lot less time stuck in your inbox and a lot more time getting things done.
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