A survey from late 2021 found that email still dominates despite the numerous communication channels offices now have. Almost 50% of respondents list it as their preferred contact method with colleagues. In America, this results in workers spending an average of more than 5 hours a day checking email, both personal and professional.
However, despite the piles of emails hitting our inboxes, the same study found that Americans only open about half of the emails they receive and report that less than a third of them are helpful. This means wasted time, energy, and resources could be used with simple email management and organization.
Below, we’ve compiled some of the best techniques for email organization, whether you’re trying to sort personal messages or your business inbox. This is in addition to some tried and tested methods of email management and some tech tips to take your inbox organization to the next level.
Don’t let Your Inbox Manage you
With almost 200 million emails sent every minute, it’s no surprise that American workers are finding themselves checking their inboxes before the workday even begins – with nearly 40% of younger workers checking business emails before they even get out of bed! But that’s not how priorities should be.
Playing catch-up to a cluttered email inbox is a sure sign that something is out of whack with your company culture and email management technique. If you’re not sure if your inbox is managing you (rather than the other way around), look for some of the signs in your company and daily habits:
Organizational culture demanding high availability to emails
Have you ever received a follow-up email on Monday morning only to discover that they sent the first email on Sunday afternoon? If this sounds familiar, your expected email availability is too high!
Even if it isn’t quite this extreme, many jobs require deep focus, and you can’t be expected to respond to emails within a couple of minutes during the entire workday and concentrate on other tasks.
High focus on “inbox zero”
Many of us have spent a long time being told that “inbox zero” is the holy grail of email organization. If we can just get that counter to “0”, we’ll be the master of all things email. Well, we hate to burst your bubble – a heavy focus on inbox zero can give a false sense of productivity as you spend your whole workday reading and responding to messages rather than getting actual tasks done.
Emails everywhere! Unread responses, drafts as tasks, follow-ups from a year ago. Without a clear structure and process for your emails, chaos can quickly creep in. This mess of messages is a clear sign that you’re not in control of your inbox, and it is likely in control of you.
How can you break this cycle and take back control of your inbox? Let’s go through some of the best email organization techniques you can apply today.
Take Back Control of Your Inbox and Organize Your Emails
It’s time to take back control of your inbox through more efficient messaging, decluttering, always finding the right tool for the job, and leveraging technology to make your life easier.
Read Emails at Specific Times
It can be tempting to read and respond to emails as soon as they come through – chasing that inbox-zero high – but while it can feel like you’re being productive, it can distract you from the tasks at hand, causing context switching and reduced productivity.
To stop this from happening, deal with all your emails at specific times by carving your workday into blocks. One or two of these blocks will be dedicated to dealing with your inbox. A simple way to start is by setting aside two 20 to 30-minute periods each day and going from there to find what works for you.
Choose the Best Way to Communicate Based on the Situation
While email might be the go-to method of communication for colleagues, that doesn’t mean it’s always the best one. Different situations call for various tools, and part of a good email organization strategy is knowing when not to use email.
Email is great when you need to communicate a clear point and call to action. However, if the topic will require more discussion, back and forth, or explanation, then a voice or video call is the way to go.
Can’t get everyone on a call at the same time? Voice messages can explain complex topics while maintaining the benefits of asynchronous communication. Or, if you’re looking for quick consensus among your team, then a group chat will probably be the best route.
None of these communication channels is inherently better than the others, they are just different tools for different jobs. Therefore, a vital part of an effective email organization solution is knowing when to use the tools you have.
Keep Your Email Shorts and to the Point
If recipients have to wade through loads of text to get to the point of your email, then it isn’t an effective email, and chances are it will be left sitting in a pile of other emails that are never dealt with.
Make sure you are concise and to the point, outlining why you are writing, the information the recipient needs, and what action you expect them to take – whether this is completing a task or simply responding.
Remember: Never use two words when one will do.
Unsubscribe from Unnecessary Mailing Lists
If there is a simple answer to “what is the best advice for organizing email messages?” it would be: get rid of the emails you don’t need! Cutting the number of messages you have to organize will immediately make managing your inbox that much easier.
Our inboxes can quickly get cluttered up with messages from mailing lists that we have no reason to be subscribed to — from obscure news sites to an online store that you used once, and we tend just to accept the junk mail. So put a stop to it now and unsubscribe from unnecessary mailing lists.
Create Message Templates to Save Time
While you may be sending out hundreds of emails a day, if you stop and take a look, you’ll probably realize that most of them are pretty similar. Each one contains the same old greeting, straightforward information, and polite sign-off.
Stop wasting your energy by writing them out each time and instead create templates that you can add to emails with a click of your mouse. Of course, you should always make sure that messages are personalized, but having the basics ready to go could shave hours off your inbox time each week.
Create Email Rules
If your email client is able to, create rules to automatically deal with incoming messages. These can be used to complete basic actions such as forwarding, archiving, deleting, and tagging based on keywords or sender.
You often have to set these filters or rules yourself, but once done, they can save loads of time that you’d have otherwise spent on email management. Of course, having all this automated for you saves even more time, but we’ll get to that later.
Organizing Your Work Email
We increasingly use emails to communicate with friends and family, but for many, they still remain predominantly for business purposes. All the tips that we’ve outlined so far can be used to organize business emails, but a few other techniques can be even more effective when looking to manage your work email.
1. Archive Emails
You will regularly find yourself with work emails that are no longer needed but can’t really be deleted either. Once these start to stack up, you can quickly find your inbox, or dedicated folders, becoming overwhelmed by them. This is where archiving emails becomes important.
Archiving emails allows you to remove them from your inbox but still keep them in a secure and easily-accessible place. This is especially useful for keeping track of important data in the long term, which is a requirement for some industries.
2. Use Folders, Labels, and Tags
Sometimes, the old ways are the best, and just as you’d manage and organize your work in a filing cabinet using folders, labels, and tags, you can do the same with your emails – albeit a little more advanced.
Folders can be used to organize business emails based on client, project, or any other category that suits your needs. Labels and tags can further break down the specifics of incoming emails and even be used to prioritize messages (we’ll get to that) or log the actions you need to take.
3. Prioritize Your Emails
One of the most challenging parts of managing your work email is figuring out what to respond to and when. Simple prioritization starts with kicking unimportant messages (like newsletters and receipts) to the back of the queue. You then need to establish each email’s importance and urgency.
The importance of an email is subjective, but try to focus on those that will help achieve your goals for the day, week, or longer term. You’ll have a feel for what is important in your job and company, so base your decisions on that.
The urgency of an email is less subjective – when is the action point in the email due? This could be something like your boss asking for paperwork by the end of the day or a colleague with a question about a project next week.
Using these two factors, you can prioritize your emails into:
Those that need to be dealt with now (important and urgent)
Those that can be left for the future (important but not urgent)
Those that require a judgment call (not important but urgent)
Those that can be archived or deleted (not important, not urgent)
You can then use an internal system, such as labels, to make note of the prioritization of an email and deal with them in order.
4. Automate your Workflow
While all of these methods are great at getting your inbox more organized, they can take up time better spent on more important tasks. This is why one of the most important parts of email organization is automation.
Rather than manually prioritizing emails, use an email client that automatically sifts through your messages and only shows you the important ones. Similarly, emails from certain people or those containing certain keywords shouldn’t have to be manually added to folders or given tags.
Recommended Techniques for Organizing Your Work Email Inbox
You can try applying all or some of the techniques we’ve talked about to your email organization, but sometimes a more structured approach is best. There are a couple of methods that are worth giving a try:
The 5 Folder Techniques
The five folder technique helps you manage your emails by dividing all your messages into (you guessed it) five folders:
You probably already have this one; it’s where all your emails arrive. However, no message should stay here long. Instead, it must be promptly sorted into one of the other folders.
This is the place for any emails that have to be (and will be) dealt with today. Again, use the prioritization method we talked about above to make the decision.
Emails that require a response by the end of the week.
Messages that require a response by the end of the month. Be careful not to let things hang around here too long.
Holding / Informational
This is everything else. Emails that don’t require action or are purely informational.
This system can help you take back control of your inbox and organize your business emails but is most effective when paired with other tips mentioned, such as concise messages and choosing the right tool.
The Waiting Folder Technique
The waiting folder technique is most effective for people who work in a role that requires them to be in their inbox a lot – such as customer care – so they can’t work in blocks as mentioned above. A waiting folder is a place where you can park all the emails that can’t be added to a more effective task manager or to-do list. This way you can deal with them later when you have time.
Alternatively, if your email client offers a snooze function, you can use this in a similar way, but with greater effect, to remove less urgent emails from your inbox until you have the time or need to deal with them.
Spike – The Perfect Email Client To Manage Your Work Email
If you’re really looking at how to organize your work email, then you need to start with an email client that gives you the right tools. Spike has been built with productive email management in mind, so it delivers power email organization in a simple to use package.
Spike Priority Inbox Will Filter Your Important Messages Automatically
Stop wasting time prioritizing messages manually, or worse, wading through everything that comes into your inbox. Spike Priority Inbox delivers your most important messages to you while sending everything else to the “Other” folder, where you can deal with it in your own time.
Spike’s smart algorithm filters your messages automatically, so you can focus on what’s important in your day. No more hours wasted dealing with a chaotic inbox, just simple, organized work email when you need it.
However, Spike doesn’t lock you into Priority Inbox, giving you the tools to manage your emails the way you want with customization to sort by the subject, sender, or as a classic email inbox.
No More Context Switching
Context switching – hopping from one task to another – distracts us from work, reduces cognitive function, drains energy for the day, and clouds what’s important to achieve our goals.
Unfortunately, it can happen all the time if you’ve got to hop from one app to the other to choose the right communication channel or get things done. This is why Spike has folded all the tools you need into a single platform, so you can access everything without having to open and close multiple apps. Right in your inbox, you can find Video Meetings, Voice Messages, Groups, Online Notes, Tasks, To-Do Lists, and more. No more context switching!
Real-Time Sharing And Editing
An essential part of organizing business emails is finding other ways to collaborate apart from long email threads. Spike offers the cutting edge in collaboration with real-time sharing and editing with Online Notes. You can add text, code, videos, pictures, and more while collaborating with colleagues in real-time.
What’s more, Tasks and To-Do Lists can also be shared, keeping your whole team on track and focussed.
Your Productivity Will Spike
Using Spike for personal and professional email organization will leave you the time to focus on what’s essential, boosting productivity and time to dedicate elsewhere. Combined with the tips, tricks, and techniques we’ve listed above, Spike will soon make you the master of your inbox once more.
The future of email is here,
are you ready for it?
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