The average email user spends 2.5 hours a day sifting through the 147 messages, research shows. Managing this mound of messages is one of the major time-sucks of the modern workplace. But there are ways to save tons of time by giving your inbox a through spring cleaning.
Alex Moore, CEO of Baydin, offers 10 tips on how to give your inbox the long overdue spring cleaning it deserves. His company develops reminder services for popular email clients such as Outlook and Gmail that enable users to take control of when they send and receive email messages.
Seek and ye shall find
Use search to find specific emails. It'll take only one-third the time. Modern email clients include very powerful search capabilities — spend 15 minutes learning to use them, and it will pay dividends for years.
Try turning off notifications on your computer and your phone. Every time a notification comes up, it takes your brain over a minute to fully regain concentration.
Forego folder folly
Don't bother with complicated folder systems — research shows it's significantly faster to find messages by scrolling through a list of every message you've ever received than by looking through an "organized" set of folders.
Timing is everything
Send messages at optimal times — usually just before work or during lunch, and rarely in the late afternoon. A message sent at 7 a.m. is almost four times more likely to be opened than one sent at 4 p.m.
Clear the clutter
Leave only messages that still need your prompt attention in your inbox. Move the rest to a single old mail folder or archive them. Your old messages will still be searchable and it'll be harder for emails that aren't "finished" to fall through the cracks.
Brevity is the soul of wit
Try writing shorter emails. You'll be surprised at how well people respond to brevity in email. A good guideline: try to keep most of your messages (though clearly not all!) under five sentences.
It's all about blocking and tackling
If your schedule allows, set up specific time blocks each day to handle your email. During those times, go through your emails in batches. But try not to do it first thing in the morning — you want start your day with your most important work, rather than the seemingly most urgent.
Have a system
Figure out a system for deferring messages to later. Research shows that more than one-third of all email doesn't need attention now, but needs it again later. Some options include an email reminder service that can bring messages back to your attention later.
Make it easy
If you're sending an email where you ask for more than one thing, number your requests and put them near the top of the message to make it easy for the recipient to figure out what he/she needs to do.
Say what you mean
Make the first sentence in your email descriptive. Most mail clients show a small snippet of the message in the inbox view. Which one of these is more likely to get your attention? "Important meeting next Friday. Please RSVP!" or "Hey Frank, I'm just writing to let you know."