Learn more “376 unread e-mails” – The e-mail inbox can drive you crazy
Pling! And yet another new e-mail lands in your inbox. No matter whether you are on the phone or working on a project: You are constantly distracted by incoming e-mails. On average, we open our e-mail inbox 45 times a day to deal with new e-mails. On the one hand, the correct handling of e-mails is a question of technology, because filters and labels make it easier to file and retrieve e-mails. On the other hand, it is a question of discipline. If you manage to open your inbox only three times a day, you are on the right track.
Perhaps you know these situations: You keep opening your messages because you don’t tidy up your inbox and team colleagues ask you at some point what your decision is now. But in all the confusion you have overlooked this e-mail or put it on the back burner as not so urgent. Or you can no longer find the correspondence with a client because a colleague saved it differently than you did. Or, or, or…
There is another way. This is how you keep the overview
If you follow the following tips and keep to the rules in a disciplined manner, you can get a better grip on your e-mails and thus save up to 20 percent of your precious working time. If you want to minimise the time you spend processing e-mails, you should remember two guidelines in particular: only open your inbox when you have the time to process the messages. And, if possible, check off an e-mail after opening it for the first time. This will save you the effort of having to look into the e-mail again at a later time. And you free yourself from the psychological burden of opened but undone e-mails.
How to process e-mails efficiently
That’s easier said than done: “It’s best to deal with your e-mails immediately after opening them”. But what is the right approach to this? If you start by reading the latest e-mail from front to back, you will lose valuable time. Because you should not only read your e-mails, but “process” them. That means prioritising, deleting and filing. For processing the e-mail, you can basically follow the five-minute rule:
Decide whether you can process the e-mail within five minutes. If so, process it and then move on to the next e-mail.
If it takes longer than five minutes to process the e-mail, transfer the task associated with the e-mail to your to-do list or project management tool.
If you last checked your e-mails the day before, it is usually sufficient to sort the messages by date of receipt. If you have returned from holiday, it can be helpful to sort the e-mails by recipient or subject line. It is important to note that e-mails from important persons (e.g. customers and superiors) should be dealt with first. If the subject line shows by many “AW:” or “Re:” that a longer conversation has taken place here, it makes sense to read the most recent e-mail first. Often something has already been decided and you can tick off the e-mail as done.
You can safely delete about 90 percent of all e-mails. If you are not one hundred percent sure that you will need the e-mail again, you should simply delete it. If we look at the relevance of many messages, you can already banish the e-mail to the wastepaper basket unread after a simple inspection of the subject.
So always remember: before you start editing, first subject-check your e-mails and delete anything superfluous.
Store e-mails in the right context
At the end of the day, your inbox should ideally contain no e-mails at all, or at most so many that you can overview them on one screen.
Why? An empty inbox can be liberating and encourage you to work efficiently. To empty your inbox, you need to file your e-mails. There are several ways to do this:
Classic: hierarchical folder structures
This works like the folder system on the hard disk. Under “Clients”, for example, the names of all clients are stored. The subfolders contain all the important e-mails for a particular customer. The first level should ideally consist of only four or five folders, below that there can be more. Basically, you should think carefully about whether you really need a folder before you create it. In order to maintain clarity, you should also not stagger the folders deeper than three levels.
Modern: hierarchical label systems
Modern e-mail systems do not need folders. They work with an inbox, an archive for older e-mails and with “labels”. The biggest advantage: e-mails no longer have to be stored in appropriately assigned folders, but can be provided with labels. In this way, you can find the e-mails you are looking for much more quickly with the assigned labels than in the classic folder structures.
File e-mails directly in the right business application
To ensure that your e-mails are always stored in the correct business context, it is a good idea to transfer e-mails directly into your business applications. You can transfer your e-mails either via different add-ins of your individual business applications or by copy & paste. If you work with Microsoft Outlook, there is also a third way: With the Outlook add-in Mailissa, you can connect your Outlook with all your business applications and file e-mails and attachments with just a few clicks. This way you can find the information from the e-mails exactly where you need it. And so do your colleagues.
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