You've got email! Tips to beat inbox inundation

Are you afraid of your inbox? Here’s how to stay on top of the daily influx of emails. 

Back in the 90s when we were all signing up for our first free hotmail accounts, email was so new and exciting.

What began as a fun new way to communicate with friends is now a daily chore that can be completely overwhelming.

Every time you turn around - DING! - there's another message waiting for your attention.

The good news is that with a little discipline and the right systems in place, you can make an empty inbox your normal.

Here are a few ways to help you take control.

Do a spring clean

First things first - schedule some time to tidy your inbox. Delete old unread emails and create folders for the ones that you want to hang on to.

Next, take a few minutes to unsubscribe from all those marketing emails that you never open.

Social media notifications can be the worst offenders on this front, so log in to your accounts and change the settings. You don’t need an email every time one of your friends puts up another pic of their dog!

The task of inbox tidying might seem time consuming but it will make you feel instantly less stressed.

Set your email times

Productivity experts recommend against starting the morning with email and recommend getting on with the day’s most important tasks first.

This is because opening your inbox tends to trap you into a number of conversations that distract you from what you really want to focus on. Often that all-important task is the one that doesn’t get done!

Instead of starting your day with email or checking it constantly throughout the day, some experts recommend putting aside an hour or so mid-morning and one in the late afternoon to go through all your messages and respond to the important ones.

Of course, this might vary depending on the nature of your job but according to Atlassian, the average employee takes 16 minutes to refocus after stopping to check email. No wonder we all feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day!

Resist the urge to have email notifications on your desktop computer or smart phone and you’ll be able to get through your tasks more quickly.

If a matter really is urgent then your colleagues and clients will pick up the phone and give you a call.

Change the way you check

When you open your inbox, do you start at the top and work down? Or do you start at your oldest unopened email and work your way up?

It’s smarter to take the latter approach - working from oldest to newest email means nothing important will get lost at the bottom of your inbox.

As you go through your emails, put them into one of four categories:

●       Emails that can immediately be deleted or unsubscribed from

●       Emails you can respond to with a one or two sentence answer on the spot (and feel free to do so)

●       Emails that you can forward for someone else to take care of

●       Emails that need further attention (you will need to schedule time in your calendar to attend to them)

Stop wasting time!

While email is one of the most basic communication tools, it can also be a productivity killer, with some workers spending up to six hours a day looking at it.

Take back your time at work by being extra disciplined with your email.

These are the tactics to use:

●     Don’t write an essay when a paragraph will do (nobody will read it anyway)

●    Stop cc-ing and bcc-ing people who don’t need to be part of your conversation

●     Be old fashioned and pick up the phone! A two-minute conversation can replace half an hour of back and forth on email

●    Schedule a meeting instead of drawing more than one or two people into a long email discussion.

Stick to these new habits and suggest your colleagues do the same - you’ll be able to reduce the time spent on email for the whole office.

Get to know your inbox features

Email providers like Google and Microsoft understand the frustration that people have with their accounts and are always introducing new features to make email more productive.

For example, Gmail has a ‘Snooze’ plugin that tells an email to jump up and remind you after a certain amount of time. You can also request notifications if emails haven’t been responded to.

Spend some time researching the features of the email you use every day and you will uncover some secrets that will help you achieve the magic inbox number - ZERO!