Email Management Stinks Because You Do

Just as a car won’t maintain itself, your emails won’t manage themselves either. We’ll teach you five painfully basic tips to mastering email management so that you can, eventually, make the task of cleaning out your inbox a little less horrible.

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(Photo Source: hyperdashery/Flickr)

There are way too many apps and software packages that promise to take care of all your email needs, giving you that glimmer of hope, yet again, that you can conquer your inbox clutter once and for all. However, if you don’t understand the basics of how to manage your emails, then how do you expect to understand and successfully utilize these various email management "miracle workers"? Think of it this way: you can buy a fancy new car, but unless you know how to drive, the car is pretty much useless. Here are five tips to help you filter, organize, and handle emails so that you can make email management technologies work for you.

1. Spend 10-15 minutes in the morning sorting through emails -- nothing more. You should be able to recognize which emails require direct attention and which ones don’t. Try to focus strictly on finding the emails that need an immediate response, leaving the other miscellaneous emails for your next scheduled inbox session. Respond to urgent emails as you go along, and if the email requires more than a few minutes to write, then pick up the phone and discuss matters. Don’t waste your time composing a novel of an email that will, most likely, be confusing, overwhelming, and misinterpreted. What will take you 10 minutes to write will probably take two minutes to discuss during a single phone call, so don’t waste your time.

2. Organize your emails into three categories: Reply Now, Save for Later/Mark as Read, Delete. (See below for further details.)

3. “Reply Now” emails are from people who make a direct impact on your bottom-line or project deadlines (i.e. they pay the bills and put food on your table). Again, if your response requires in-depth explanation or clarification, then make a phone call instead -- playing the back-and-forth email game for days, weeks, or even months is such a waste of time.

4. “Save for Later” or “Mark as Read” emails are the everyday emails that come in that aren’t urgent but require you to respond within 24-72 hours. These emails should be scheduled for later review until they become relevant, or simply label them “mark as read” so that you can sift through them at a later date. Leaving those emails “unread” indicates that you still need to follow-up on that particular conversation, but just not right now.

5. “Delete” is your best friend. You will save yourself a lot of time either deleting or unsubscribing to social media updates, newsletters, and general “spam” emails that only clutter your inbox and waste your precious time. If you need to check your social media accounts, then schedule time for that either during lunch or a convenient time during the day or night. Another great option to manage email subscriptions and social media updates is creating a separate email address for those types of emails. This way, these non-urgent emails won’t clog up your inbox, they will be in one location, and you can check them whenever you please (off-hours).

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to filter through emails on your own, incorporating a sophisticated software package or app to help you manage your inbox will be greatly beneficial. Here are our suggestions for easy, yet useful email management apps to help you while you’re on-the-go:

1. Mailbox – Recently acquired by Dropbox, Mailbox allows you to schedule your emails for later with a swipe and a tap. Its user interface is clean and simple (much like the revamped iOS7 look and feel), making it super easy to get your inbox under control. Mailbox is currently only compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Gmail, and it is free to download in the iTunes Store or online.

2. Dispatch – “Based on Merlin Mann's idea of managing your inbox, it helps you tame your inbox by letting you delete, defer, delegate, generate actions, and even respond to your mails with ease.” You can download the app from the iTunes Store for $4.99. (Source: Dispatch Website)

3. Evomail – Much like the other two apps listed above, Evomail helps you manage emails, while also enabling push notifications, “gestures” that make filtering through emails a breeze, and folders to help organize your emails. Evomail is current available for iPhone, iPhone, and Android, and can be downloaded in iTunes Store for free. 

Hopefully you find some relief in your day-to-day email sorting with the tips listed above because nothing feels better than closing out the day at inbox zero!

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