Sometimes we receive email that we are not certain what to do with. The first question to ask yourself is, “Is there any action that I need to take?”. If so, then take action and respond appropriately. If there is not action to take then ask yourself, “Is it important information to save?” If so, then file it appropriately. Lastly, “Is it information that someone else needs?” If so, then forward the email to the appropriate person. If you have answered no to all the questions, then you most likely you can delete the email.
When you leave email in the inbox thinking you will go back to it, you often don’t. Take the few extra seconds to process the decision or action you need to take with an email before moving onto the next one. This process in managing incoming email will help you become quicker, more efficient and ultimately lead to quicker action and response.
To manage email effectively apply the three R rule–read, respond, and remove. After you open an email, do the following:
1. Read it entirely.
2. Respond to the email.
3. Remove the message from your inbox.
When you manage email in this fashion, you have to deal with that email only once and can move on to the next email. This approach reduces inbox clutter, encourages immediate response and action, and eliminates the need to reread emails (either for response or filing). Just as no one wants to file a huge stack of papers, no one wants to re-read and file a long list of email messages.
Adopt the same process with your email inbox as your inbox on your desk: a place that information should come into and move out of quickly. The goal is to create an empty ‘in-box’. Only email that you haven’t yet read or still must take action on should remain in your inbox. All other email should ideally be removed from the in-box so that you can view easily those emails that need action or response. This approach keeps your inbox current and highlights the items you must take action on.
Compounding the sheer volume of email is even more problematic because most of the e-mail we do get, we don’t really want. The London Times in 2010 reports that eighty eight percent of e-mails are considered junk by the average office worker including spam, newsletters, solicited and unsolicited e-mails. One way to reduce the email inbox clutter is to set up email rules and filters.
Use the rules or filters function, available in your email program, to help in the initial sort of incoming e-mail. Some e-mail software will use the term “filters” and other software will use the term “rules,” and they are essentially the same function. When you set up a rule or filter, the incoming e-mail will re-direct and move to a different file folder. It is then diverted from your in-box entirely. This is particularly helpful for filtering distribution lists and/or newsletters that you may not need to see daily and could review on a weekly or monthly basis. This is also particularly useful if you have a friend who always forwards jokes or other unimportant e-mail that you can filter out automatically.
Click here to learn more how to set up a rule in Microsoft Outlook.
Click here to learn more how to create a filter in Gmail.
You may have noticed that your e-mail in-box volume is growing rapidly. If you are like many people, it could be growing at a rate of 66% a year, according to the E-Policy Institute. According to a study by The Radicati Group, the average corporate email user will send or receive over 219 messages per day by 2013.
One step to managing e-mail volume to reduce your in-box clutter is to get off subscriptions lists. Start now and unsubscribe to all those marketing and newsletter lists that you seem to which you have been subscribed. Most marketing and newsletter type e-mails, have ‘unsubscribe’ options noted at the bottom of the e-mail. These are typically hyperlinks that will connect you with an e-mail marketing service, such as Constant Contact, which will automatically remove you from the list. It may also provide you with alternate e-mail options such as, preferred topics and frequency of email. This is not to say that you couldn’t get yourself back on the list through reactivation if you wanted to, but it will take you off the majority of unsolicited e-mails.