How To Stay On Top Of Email

Keeping on top of your email is an essential foundation for success in business, not least for the fact that an organised emailing system means more time is freed up for you to focus on getting things done, rather than manically trawling through an endless backlog of unopened mail. Additionally, when email becomes unmanageable, it can affect your self-confidence and your motivation to complete tasks you would normally be happy to get stuck into.

The thing about email that makes most of us recoil from the computer screen at the sight of our inbox is how quickly and easily emails can get out of hand. It seems just a day away from emails can leave us out of control of our mail. So how do we get our email under control and, more importantly, how do we keep it that way?

Luckily, there is a fool-proof system you can follow that should get rid of those inbox blues.

  1. Empty inbox daily 

This is an important goal, and one that can be achieved. You don’t need to answer every email, but processing all your mail is a realistic target that will help you sleep at night.

  1. Don’t dither – keep moving!

Once you start processing your inbox, don’t dwell too long on individual emails. You must move quickly, or you will find yourself spending all day on it. Each email you process, read swiftly and determine what response is required – if one is needed at all. There are three possible courses of action:

  •  REPLY to the email now. Set yourself a target time of just two minutes to complete the email. Be concise!
  • DEFER your reply to a later time. It is not laziness telling yourself that a response can wait. Not all emails are of vital importance and recognising this is a useful skill in getting your emails processed quickly. Deferring your response is also a good course of action if the task will take you longer than two minutes.
  • DELEGATE the task to someone else. Again, this is not “passing the buck” or an attempt to avoid replying. Sometimes, another in your team may be better equipped to satisfy the sender’s request/query.
  1. Don’t be scared to press delete

If a response is not required, then decide if the information is important enough to save. If not, then DELETE. Those that survive the cull should be put into one folder called ‘processed’ (or something similar). Having just one folder for all processed mail will prevent your mail becoming unnecessarily convoluted – simplicity is the key!

After repeating this processing method for a week or so, you will find yourself completing the task quickly and efficiently without much thought.

  1. Try creating rules

Some people offering similar advice on this topic will recommend using email rules to filter out low-priority emails. If this works for you, then do it. Be wary of this however, as sometimes if an email is marked as ‘low priority’ for you it does not mean that a response is not required.

  1. Make it a habit

If you make this part of your daily routine, then you’ll no longer need to be filled with despair every time you open your inbox. Staying on top of emails isn’t supposed to fill you with joy, but now at least, if you follow these steps, it doesn’t have to be an impossible chore.

Just remember – it can be done. Good luck!