Business using laptop,with email icon,email inbox electronic communication graphics concept.

Automating your emails and gaining control

Emails are an incredibly effective, instant means of communicating. They are the business equivalents of texts.  But they also can overwhelm you, distract you and destroy your efficiency.  You need to control your email not let your email control you.

Let’s look at the problems with emails:

  • Emails are constantly coming in at all hours of the day and night – they never stop.
  • Emails can cause a constant loop of spending your day replying to emails and not actually having time to action anything
  • Emails can contain pertinent information on a project but spread across multiple emails. (You know, those days when you get five emails from five different people all on the same topic?)
  • Emails with multiple CC’s get lost in clutter and there is a lack of organisation when multiple people are all replying leading to missed communication
  • Searching for emails can be difficult if you just use one folder (Inbox)
  • Emails aren’t categorised, how do you know what emails relates to what business activity?
  • Junk mail constantly comes through and you are continually deleting the same emails day after day.

Now let’s look at the solutions:

  • Set a block of time to sort through and reply to your emails. A good idea is go through your emails in the morning for 30 minutes and organise the ones that should be actioned today. Those that won’t be actioned today should still be replied to, providing the sender with an anticipated date that you will action the email request.
  • Use functions such as Conversations in Gmail and Outlook to automatically group emails into threads https://www.howtogeek.com/397298/how-to-toggle-and-customise-conversation-view-in-outlook/
  • Tag people in a conversation with the @ symbol. This gives visibility that a specific person in an email chain should look at important information that is only specific to them within the body of the text
  • Create multiple folders for your email instead of just an Inbox. There are a couple of approaches to this:
    • #1
      • Inbox (anything unread)
      • To action (anything that requires attention today)
      • In progress (anything that is a continual communication chain)
      • Archived (done and completed)
    • #2
      • Inbox
      • Categorised by groupings
        • Company Name
        • Sales
        • Marketing
        • Admin
      • Use the Categorise function to catalogue and archive your emails for easy searching in the future
        • Example categories
          • Personal Development
          • Business Development
          • Meetings
          • Invoice / Finance
          • Documentation
          • Sales / Lead
          • Personal
  • Adopt a One Minute rule. When you receive an email, can you send a useful reply to the sender within one minute? Is it something that can be actioned quickly? Can you do the task and respond with a short email on its completion? Or is it something that may take time to scope or plan? Spend less than one minute to acknowledge receipt of the email and provide the sender with an anticipated date of action to keep the conversation moving forward. If you find yourself needing more than one minute to just write an email, then set aside the email and block out a period of time in your task management system to complete the task.
  • Setup filters to automatically bin emails you don’t want to receive. Stop just deleting junk mail and look at your options for a long-term fix. Filters within systems such as Microsoft 365 and Gmail let you set up to automatically delete an email before it even gets to your Inbox. This is a good option for spam emails. Using the unsubscribe function for unsolicited marketing emails ensures that you won’t be getting those annoying emails again.

Following these simple rules will help you gain control of your emails and turn them back into the useful business tool they should.  And, give you more productive time in your day.