Email Management Strategy Tips

E-mail is still the number one method of communicating, and it is taking more time than ever. In fact, answering e-mail could take more than two hours a day, according Ferris Research study. To keep on top of e-mail and not become overwhelmed, it is important to manage it appropriately. The following tips and suggestions will help you gain control of your daily flood of email:

The in-box is like your in-box on your desk; a place that information should come in and move quickly out. Only e-mail that you haven’t yet read or still must take action should remain in your in-box. Once response and action have been taken, delete or file the e-mail immediately; this will keep your in-box current and bring clarity and focus to the email items you must deal with.

Use the rules or filters function to help the initial sort of incoming e-mail. Filter and rule functions automatically move or delete unwanted mail before it hits the in-box. For example, you can determine that all e-mail messages containing a certain subject heading should be deleted before entering the in-box or that e-mail from a particular sender is automatically moved into a specified folder. When you set up a rule or filter, the incoming e-mail will re-direct and move to a different file folder and is diverted from your in-box entirely. This is particularly helpful for 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 other unimportant e-mail that you can filter out automatically.

In Outlook, you can set up a Quick Rule by doing the following

  1. Highlight email and right-click.
  2. Click on Create Rule.
  3. In the Create Rule dialog box make sure to check a condition in the top and bottom half of the window.
  4. When finished, click OK.

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To change, deactivate or edit the rule, go to Tools / Rules and Alerts. Highlight the rule and click on Change Rule.

Create designated time to deal with e-mail. By quickly scanning e-mail and not dealing with it immediately, you lose time by having to reread and make decisions again. Take time to deal with your e-mail at certain intervals during the day and then concentrate on your other action items. Most e-mail applications have various utilities to “flag” an e-mail to clearly identify high priority messages that you need to address at a later time.

Save e-mail messages by creating individual folders under your in-box. Once an e-mail has been read and acted on, click and drag the message from the in-box to the appropriate folder. Consider setting up your e-mail folders similar to your digital files. Having similar file systems will help you remember where the information is located. Be wary of creating too many folders that leave too many options to choose from- ideally, you should not have to scroll down to see other e-mail files. If that is the case, consider sub-filing under general topics. For example, create a folder called “clients” and create sub-files of specific client names underneath.

Shown here is a sample email file outline structure in Microsoft Outlook. To create a new file folder, highlight the inbox and select File, New, Folder; the New Folder window appears. Enter the name of the file folder and click OK. 

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Most email applications, like Outlook and Gmail, have a follow-up function that will flag or star email in your in-box. Once flagged or starred, you will see the flag/star in the in-box screen. Most applications have a separate view or folder that will show in one view all your flagged/starred email. This makes it easy to quickly see the email you need to respond or provide further action.

In Outlook or Gmail you can also convert an email into a calendar or task item. This is extremely useful if you have an email that was not sent as a meeting invitation and needs to be on your calendar. Or if you have an email that will be an on-going task or action item that needs to be listed in the task list. When you convert an email to the calendar or task folders, it will copy the body of the email into the text/note space of the calendar and task window. This notes section will sync will mobile devices so that you have that information when you are not in your office. This is an extremely useful feature to manage your emails that are task or calendar type items.

Shown here is an example of how to flag an email in Microsoft Outlook. Simply right click on the email, choose Follow-Up and then choose option from the drop down.

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Downloadable Report

This 30-page report offers a comprehensive approach to managing email effectively. Learn how to organize and manage daily email quickly and efficiently. Screen shots are provided in Microsoft Outlook that show how to utilize functionality to improve email management.