Ever wonder how the ‘organised’ people keep on top of their emails?
Well I’m going to give you a few tips to help you organise your emails like a pro.
Having managed multiple mailboxes at a time, I know what it’s like to lose an email or two or wonder how to make sure I don’t forget to reply to someone’s email to complete a task sent through from my boss. These are the strategies I use to keep me on top of everything and I’m sure you will get the most out of these tips as well.
Categories can work for you
Do you use categories? Categories are really useful when a number of people manage the one mailbox. It means that you can allocate colours to people or actions, that way you will always know what’s happening with every email.
If you are managing a mailbox jointly with someone or a group of people, make sure you are ticking the emails off as ‘complete’ and archiving to keep everything manageable.
Some example category names for the above scenario would be: Jane; Jessica; on hold; waiting more info; urgent; need advice; and completed.
There’s a Task for that
Do you use your tasks in your mailbox system? Tasks are a hidden gem, if you haven’t discovered tasks, I suggest you check it out! They make it so easy to manage your email workload. Have an email with a deadline you can’t get to right now? Turn the email into a task and give it a due date of the day before the response is due and you have yourself an email that can’t get lost and an instant reminder to do respond to the email before the due date.
Have to send an RSVP but need to check if other people in the office are going as well? Make a task out of the email to remind you to check in with people a few days before RSVP’s are due. Or better still, send an email to the people you want to check in with and make a task out of your email so you can easily follow up with them if they don’t respond.
Tasks truly are a great tool, you can set reminders, due dates, urgency, add notes.
Every morning I check my ‘due today’ tasks and complete these first, then I check my ‘due tomorrow’ tasks and see if I can tick anything off this list as well.
Then I go through my emails and create new tasks from any new emails which have come through.
Tip – If you don’t like tasks, try the same but with your calendar! Block out some time at the start and end of your day to check emails – drag any emails you need to action into that calendar booking and go through them (too much clicking for me to open each attachment in the calendar, but this may be the way for you).
Once you finish the task, you can mark it as completed and the task will cross itself off your list.
(you can use tasks for more than just following up on emails – you can create a task on its own and set a due date).
What’s in a name
Keeping on top of your emails for some can be as simple as having meaningful subject’s for your emails. Instead of Lunch catch up – try “Lunch meeting John & Sam September” (if you haven’t settled on a date) or instead of Wednesday’s meeting – try “Team Meeting Wed 14 Sep 16”
If you’re not one to archive, then this is the key for you – it will make searching for emails in the 100’s of 1000’s a lot simpler if you have meaningful subject lines.
Don’t forget – you can also edit subject lines, so if you receive an email with a subject that isn’t meaningful, change it and continue the conversation with the meaningful subject.
Archive Archive Archive!
No one likes a messy mailbox, it’s confusing, you can’t find anything quickly and more often than not, you lose the important emails in between the junk. It depends on the industry you’re in and the work you’re doing to the best labels for your archive folders, but here are a few suggestions:
Client emails: for any emails from your clients, as soon as you have responded or completed something, move the email into the client email folder so you know it’s done.
Accounts: have one place for all the invoices you have coming in. You can have one big Accounts archive folder, or, if you need to delve into this folder, you may want to break it down with sub folders by supplier as well. This makes it super easy to see what’s come in. (Tip: I only archive these once I’ve paid the statement or printed off the invoice).
Projects: are you a part of a number of projects or meetings? Don’t be afraid to make a folder just for the project or meeting. A lot of emails can fly around and it makes a lot of sense to have them all together, even if it is just the meeting agenda’s and minutes. If you need to find the minutes from the last meeting to see if you have any outstanding action items, it’s going to be quick to do so if you have a folder for that meeting or project. For my events, I have a folder for Events, then break it down into years, then by each event.
By department / team / name: if you’re like my last boss, he loved to put all emails from people that didn’t relate to a particular project or meeting, he would have a folder for them and would save every email from them into the folder. (I’ll be honest, this method wasn’t for me, but I could see what he was trying to do) This is a great idea if you manage a team – but just make sure you don’t keep every single email they ever sent you, it could get messy in there!
Personal: Yeah we all get personal emails at work, who doesn’t! but be sure to have a folder for them too or forward them to your personal email if you want to keep the info.
Be ruthless – don’t forget to delete: Deleting is a must! Do you know how many emails people on average are receiving? According to Expandedramblings.com workers are receiving on average 121 emails per day (in the US as at Feb 2015), that’s ridiculous! That’s approx. 30,000 emails a year (when you take out weekends and public holidays) eep! So don’t be afraid to delete emails that aren’t relevant or are promotional or are a work colleague asking if you want’ to go to lunch tomorrow. And while we are talking about deleting, set your mailbox up to permanently delete emails from your deleted mailbox at the end of each day. If you deleted them in the first place, then you really don’t need them anymore.
Manage someone else’s mailbox? Then this is for you
If you are faced with someone else’s mailbox and you’re not sure how to tell them important information, then here are some EA tips that you may not have thought of:
Use flags to alert them to important emails: Sometimes the person who your managing email’s for is too busy and you won’t have time to tell them there is an email they need to reply to ASAP. Best way to do this is to use flags, then they can scan the emails from the day to see if any are flagged (or sort by flags) to know what they need to look at first.
Reply for them: If the email is from a client trying to organise a meeting and you have access to their diary, reply and let them know of your manager’s availabilities. Hot tip: if you are replying, make sure you are cc’ing the person you are replying for back in the email so they know you have replied on their behalf.
Draft a reply: If you know the answer to an email but it’s not appropriate for you to reply, then why not draft a reply and save it in your manager’s draft emails and make a note in the original email that you have created a draft reply in their drafts folder.
Edit emails: Did you know you can edit emails? When an email is open in outlook, you can edit the email and add text to it – I put notes in bold and red up the top of the email so my manager knows the note is from me. Notes like: I’ve drafted a reply – it’s in your draft folder; printed; forwarded to Chris to action; meeting organised for Friday 9 Sept at 2pm.
I hope you found these tips helpful! Go forth and manage your mailbox effectively.