Yes, I know what you are thinking when you read the headline of this article: “That is impossible!”. And believe me I understand you, because in my time as an entrepreneur in the world of communication and public relations, I managed to process, effectively, more than 1500 emails every day from Monday to Friday.
So on that basis, what I’m going to share next is based on my experience, and I hope it works for you.
I work with CEOs, senior managers and extremely busy professionals on a daily basis, where email is practically their only “nightmare.”
Email has been around for decades and is still very popular. In case you didn’t know, the first message sent from one network to another was in 1971, in the hands of the American programmer Ray Tomlinson who is credited with this remarkable technological invention.
Today it continues to be the communication platform of choice for many companies and individuals around the world, along with voice and text messaging services.
Over time, the use of email has changed significantly and new trends have emerged. Emails are now read on mobile devices more than computers, so the design of each message is more important than ever. For example, the key to success is ensuring that your emails are engaging, relevant, well-designed, easy to read, and delivered to the right recipients – no more, no less – at the right time.
The anxiety of having emails accumulated without responding
If you want to be a highly productive and effective person, one of the most important things to keep up with is email.
As they are an important part of work and also of our social life, if you have many emails sleeping in your inbox, it is time to get organized, because the simple fact of opening your mail service and seeing that you have dozens of them without responding or process, the only thing that will generate you is anguish and stress.
The 5 keys to keep email up to date
This article will help you regain control of your email with some helpful tips and tricks. I’ll show you how to manage your inbox so it doesn’t seem like a daunting task or inconvenience.
Please: don’t believe anything you read here. I am telling you about my experience to handle, even today, a large volume of emails per day (I am around 150 currently).
Let’s go for it:
1. Clean the inbox once and for all
And please, do not cheat by leaving all the emails that you have not answered in other subfolders, because with that you only manage to deceive yourself and you will not root out this eternal procrastination in which you have fallen.
In order to start responding and keep your email up to date forever, you need to decide whether to:
a) You will quickly process everything that you already have accumulated;
or my favorite technique:
b) You are going to delete all the emails without reading them, from 30 days from today onwards.
Let’s see how you are going to execute option a):
Put all the emails with a small preview, so you can do a quick visual pan and detect something that is of possible interest that needs to be answered.
Open it, look at it in more detail, and answer it instantly. Do not put it off or put together another folder called “To respond.” You do it, period.
In the event that you have many emails (and many means in this case, more than 1000 unprocessed in the inbox), you will plan 5 sessions of 45 minutes each, without interruptions, to do it for 5 days in a row. You will dedicate yourself to it as if it were an order from your superiors.
On the sixth day you will have the tray up to date, a commitment that you must keep so that they do not accumulate again. I recommend setting aside three or four times a day to thoroughly review all incoming mail, in addition to looking up more frequently for priority requirements.
The fact of having the emails synchronized on the cell phone will help you to respond quickly in this way, and facilitates the processing of so much information.
And if you chose option b):
You will immediately delete all unread and unprocessed emails from today or a very immediate period (for example, 30 days back).
What if there is something useful there? Well, if you did not receive claims, recurring orders or pending re-deliveries, those emails can now be deleted.
Option for people who hesitate to make drastic decisions or fear detaching themselves from “their beloved emails “: if you don’t want to lose anything just in case, make a backup in the cloud, to find what you need whenever you want.
But DO NOT keep them in your sight.
To clean the tray you can sort them by date, by subject, by alphabetical, by size, by weight, by attachments / without attachments, by origin, by subject, by keywords using the search engine; that is, you have multiple functions to choose from before doing “delete” or starting to respond.
Once you have deleted all the messages, you go to the “deleted” folder and destroy them forever.
Observation Exercise: Become aware of the moment just before starting this cleanse, and the moment after. Check how your emotions were and how you feel right now, when you have already taken this crucial step.
2. Unsubscribe massively: if you haven’t read the newsletters in a week, you will never do it again
It is possible that a large part of the accumulated mail is from newsletters , promotions, offers and general lists that no longer interest you, or that you have not even once had the time or the intention to review.
So I ask you: What is all that flood of emails doing cluttering your inbox?
Immediately, you will unsubscribe from all the mailing lists; And just in case, I share this trick: even if you send your order, many tend to be stubborn and resist being abandoned. So don’t be surprised if the next day you receive another email from the same place, but from another address.
For this, I suggest you apply the double cancellation: unsubscribe, and at the same time, put the main address of that newsletter in Spam or the spam list. It is another filter that you put in order to free yourself from the chains of piled up mail.
Remember that, if there are topics that do interest you, you can go to the web and search for them, and even subscribe again. Although, in this case, it is important that you cancel everything that is not useful.
Watch out for SPAM: although most email programs have these filters, it is true that not all of them work well, and emails that you do need may end up there, and others that are super spam in sight. My advice is to use a mid-level filter anti-spam program, so that they can stay in that folder and check daily if there is something important there. If not, you delete all spam daily.
I almost forgot! Step number 2 also includes that you ask to be removed from all group emails that are sent within your company that are not related to your current position or tasks, or that should not be copied. There is a bad corporate custom of copying everyone, without thinking about the waste of time that is produced by dispersion when adding people without first analyzing the utility.
3. Separate emails
Once you have assumed that you still have much less raw emails, because you have opted for a) as you read before, it is time to carefully organize how you want to work from now on.
All email providers offer the option of dividing emails into several inboxes, you can create folders, subfolders, filters, labels and symbols or colors to categorize them.
What will it do for you? To save time, for example in the arrival of emails on certain topics that will go directly to your specific inbox: then you look for a moment, and you reply to all those emails grouped there. And so you go on for the others, including the main tray.
Depending on your pace of work, it will be the folders. In my case, I have some ongoing projects open; others, in folders that I will use only for the duration of a job; and I have one called “Temporary Emails”, where I keep, for example, the confirmation of a flight, or a budget whose work is in progress. After those actions are finished, I delete them immediately.
4. Turn off all email notifications
There are many services that you have contracted and use daily, such as social networks, which generate tons of notifications not only on your cell phone, but sometimes without realizing it you have configured that they send you emails against certain actions.
Eliminate all these notifications, and you will see how, in one fell swoop, your inbox will be much freer. Also, you won’t be distracted.
I can’t restrain myself from sharing a productivity tip on my mobile: I’ve also turned off almost all notifications there; I only keep about three running. And I set them to see notifications only within the app. This prevents (also on the cell phone) from having all those numbers telling me that there is something there that I have not seen. By doing so, it has greatly decreased my anxiety to have everything up to date.
Returning to emails , a TNS report for Hewlett Packard Labs reported that half of workers reply to an email within an hour of receiving it.
While a quick response is often not necessary, I suggest you do if you run your own business, because the speed of response today is greatly appreciated. Maybe you want to do it just for the sake of keeping your tray clean: there is nothing wrong with answering after a few minutes.
What you should know is that every time you send an email, this action will trigger that you possibly receive at least two other responses; tasks that you will have to face.
5. Very short, concise, clear and to the point answers
Sometimes emails require a simple response, such as “Thank you.” Doing so takes exactly 7 seconds between opening the message, quickly reading the content if it’s simple, and replying. Other times, you don’t even have to answer.
For long emails, with attachments and analysis, you will allocate time within your daily schedule; And, likewise, you will answer a brief “Received” that will calm the anxiety on the other side.
Please don’t “Reply All” when it’s not necessary; since, as we have seen, the over copying in emails is exhausting and makes us waste a lot of time.
Three criteria to know what you should answer and what not : answer only if what comes to you:
a) It is really necessary,
b) It is a personalized message for you (and it is not an automation): be sensitive and respond even with a brief “Thank you very much: I am not interested at this time. Greetings!”. That is preferable to deathly silence.
c) It is useful.
Even so, to simplify yourself further, you can refer it to your assistant or team, or in certain cases, have preconfigured auto-responses, which will only take a moment to activate or insert them, or which can be programmed as if it were your vacation notice.
Finally, the golden tip from my teacher and productivity mentor David Allen: “Anything that takes a minute or less, do it in the moment.”
I assure you that since I learned it in 2000 my life has changed. Do it in the moment, do not leave it for later, because it will become an incomplete circle that, in turn, will cause many unsolved micro-tasks to accumulate.
Now that you have all the res explained in five steps, you have no excuse: if you end up crushed by thousands of unanswered emails , it is because you want it that way, or simply because of your addiction to procrastination.