When it comes to productivity killers in our daily life, a cluttered inbox is one of the biggest offenders. Let’s be honest, most of us spend way too much time in our inbox trying to organize email without letting things get too out of control. If your inbox is taking over your productivity, this post is for you, because I’m sharing a few email organization habits to make you more productive!
Batch Your Email
I find that having my email open all the time is pretty detrimental to my productivity. Each time I get a new email, I find myself turning my attention away from what I’m working on to deal with it.
It’s way more productive to sit down and tackle your inbox in batches. Sure, it takes a little longer, but that way it isn’t eating up time throughout your entire day and you’re more likely to stay focused on the tasks at hand.
I’ve gotten into the habit of checking my work email in between projects rather than leaving it open all the time so I’m staying on top of emails without letting it interfere with my focused work.
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Turn Off Notifications
It wasn’t until quite recently that I finally took the step of turning off email notifications on my phone. Listening to the ding of my phone every 15 minutes or so was just getting to be too much. I also found myself immediately checking those emails, even when I was spending time with friends or family. Now that I don’t get the notifications and don’t see that number bubble telling me how many new emails I have, I no longer feel the pressure to constantly check it and only have to deal with it when I’m ready to.
If someone had taken a peek inside my inbox a year or so ago, they probably would have been horrified by the number of marketing emails in there. Then again, I’m guessing a lot of us have the same problem. It’s an easy trap to fall into. You buy something online, and suddenly you’re getting emails from that company three times per day. Or you sign up for an email list to get a coupon code, and it’s the same problem.
And it wasn’t just marketing emails from stores I shopped at once. I found that I was subscribed to so many blogger’s email lists that I was just deleting all the emails because the thought of reading all of them was too overwhelming!
So I just started unsubscribing. When I opened my inbox, any email that I didn’t find myself wanting to open, I unsubscribed from it. Not only do I get far fewer emails now, but I’m actually taking the time finally to enjoy the emails from the few bloggers and businesses I do still get emails from and actually want to read.
If the idea of unsubscribing from all of those emails seems daunting, Unroll.me is a great tool that goes through your inbox and identifies all of the mailing lists you’re on, and then gives you the option to bulk unsubscribe.
Take Action Right Away
I used to have the really unfortunate habit of opening my emails, but not actually doing anything with them. Most of them would just continue to sit in my inbox, and I would tell myself that I would handle it later. Now, I (usually) force myself to take some sort of action right away, whether it be responding, deleting, putting into a subfolder, or adding it as a task on my to-do list.
One thing that helps is, as I mentioned above, setting specific times to go through your inbox. That way you have time especially devoted to email, and you don’t have to feel bad about not doing something you deem more productive.
If you aren’t carving out time specifically for email, try setting a two-minute rule for yourself. Any email that can be handled in less than two minutes regardless of what the action needed is, you handle it right away. This way you don’t have a hundred two-minute tasks piling up that are eventually going to take you way longer.
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Sometimes an email will come in that I’ll need for later. At work, these include emails about projects I’m working on. At home, these usually have to do with my business, such as receipts from business expenses, login information from a course I may have purchased, etc. I don’t want to delete them because I really will need them again, but I don’t want them just sitting there in my inbox all the time.
This is when subfolders are awesome! I have quite a few folders in my inbox at both home and work where I can organize any reference emails or emails for projects still in progress. It allows you to hang onto them for when you need them without allowing them to become an eyesore. Just remember to label your folders well so you can find the emails when you need them again!
Keep Only Unread Emails
A big pet peeve of mine is an inbox with pages and pages of emails. Unfortunately, I used to be totally guilty of this. All the emails that came in that I never did anything with would just sit in my inbox under the assumption that I might someday get to them.
It’s a lot easier to keep a clean inbox now that I force myself to take some sort of action right away. It also makes it easier to have subfolders where I can sort reference emails without letting them sit in my inbox and drive me crazy.
I also feel like a lot of us tend to save things long after we could have gotten rid of them (this applies to both physical and digital items). I’ve gotten a lot more brutal with my decluttering process and unless I know I’m going to need it later, I delete it. Because here’s a little tip for you. The fewer things you have in your inbox, the easier it is to have an organized inbox.
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Create Template Responses
This one probably won’t apply to everyone, but if you’re a blogger or online business owner, you probably get a lot of repetitive emails. For me, these tend to be getting the same questions from readers over and over again, or getting emails from brands or PR firms wanting to collaborate with bloggers.
Sure, it may only take a few minutes to respond to each one, but I find it easier and more efficient to just create template responses to the emails I get over and over again so when I do get one, it’s easy to plug in the response.
Are you struggling with email organization? I know these tips will help you get things under control!