Productivity Hacks: Managing Email Effectively
We’re all looking for productivity hacks; that’s the main reason content about work effectiveness is so popular. In fact, I spend a decent amount of time reading and sharing such content on Facebook and Twitter. Because of my interest in productivity, I have set processes for email, task, content and social media management - all tips that I plan to share in my productivity hacks series over the next few weeks. Read on to find out how I receive and send over 3,000 emails per month, effectively.
I practice Inbox Zero (that is, I try to). Inbox Zero was created by Merlin Mann, the founder of 43folders.com. Basically, Inbox Zero says that you manage your inbox so that your inbox is as empty as possible at all times. Here’s how:
Create a folder for everything. Order your folders so that you will pay attention to the most important ones—whether you put them on top or assign a color, that’s totally up to you.
Take advantage of email filters to move your mail into each folder. This automatically removes emails from your line of sight. The important emails (for me, those are the emails in my client folders), you’ll read right away. Others, like newsletters and personal emails can wait until a time that you’ve set aside to read them.
There are plenty more techniques in Inbox Zero, such as not leaving your email open all day, deleting as many emails as soon as possible, and more. Take a look at this list to see if Inbox Zero is for you.
When busy, I'm the type of person that opens email and fires off a handful of responses without a second thought. Now, those emails are never meant to come off in a harsh way, but email is always open to interpretation. For that reason and to help with Inbox Zero, I use the Boomerang plugin for Gmail. Here’s how it helps:
Boomerang gives you the option to do just that—send emails back to your inbox after a set period of time. If I’m ever frustrated by a client or simply having a not-so-great day, I make it a point to Boomerang emails back to my inbox to read them again later.
This also works with drafted emails. If your email conversation is getting heated, do not, I repeat, DO NOT shoot a note back without taking time to think about it. I’ve made this mistake plenty of times, and when I revisit the email a few hours later, I would have changed my response 99% of the time. Now, I’m not perfect, but Boomerang helps me keep my relationships intact.
With Inbox Zero
I’ve found that Boomerang really keeps a whole slew of prospect emails out of my inbox. Often it takes weeks or even months to bring on a new client due to budget constraints, my workload, or whatever the case may be.
With Boomerang, I simply schedule emails to return to my inbox when I need to follow up with a prospect, whether that’s in a day, a week or a month. Because of Boomerang, I don’t have to stare at the emails in my inbox and stress about them, and I (almost) never miss an opportunity to touch base with an old client or prospect at the right time.
I believe email management is a process that requires a conscious effort and system. How do you manage your email? I’d love to hear more about your productivity hacks in the comments below.