Did you notice this gif roaming Twitter and Facebook? I saw it a few weeks ago, and the truth made me laugh and cringe at the same time. As a communicator, 24/7 access through email (and text) can lead to a never-ending, overwhelming and all-consuming inbox. So which camp do you claim?
Until recently, I sat on the right. My husband and friends have made several comments. “How do you keep up?” they ask. “Who are all those from?” they wonder. It was time to move to a better email policy.
I took to my inbox and set a goal to get down to each day. Here’s how I got from 2,000+ emails to under 100 – my new daily goal.
- Start with the low-hanging fruit. Unsubscribe from unnecessary lists that don’t add daily value to your work. Sort by name and delete in mass groups. (Unroll.me is a great tool to do this automatically.)
- Next, tackle emails by person. In an agency, this makes it easy to address one client at a time. You can either work down the inbox alphabetically, or search for certain people on the same account. Respond to and file all of “Client A-related emails,” then move on to “Client B,” etc.
- Create a killer filing system. Folders in Outlook keep me sane. I have two major sections: clients and agency. Each client has its own folder. Large projects get subfolders. Emails for agency business get their own section.
- Make it a daily priority. After a week of setting daily goals and moving my way through my inbox, I’m now making it a priority to spend 15 minutes a day to keep my email house in order. I feel organized, on top of requests and less stressed. Totally worth it.
As I started putting this post together, I reached out to our PRGN network and asked for their email best practices. Here are a few tips that they shared:
- Use your inbox for immediate response and folders for archiving. “The only items in my inbox are the ones that need attention, all others get moved immediately after they're handled.” – Nicole Lasorda, Buchanan Public Relations in Philadelphia
- Take care of requests immediately. “I have an ‘InBox Zero’ policy and ask staffers to follow that rule. I've learned it's better to take care of things quickly rather than let them build up.” – David Landis, Landis Communications in San Francisco
- Follow the rules. “My best practice is creating folders and rules in Outlook—so emails automatically move. Of course, that means I need to actually look in the folders!” – Abbie Fink, HMA Public Relations in Phoenix
- Find the built-in tools. “I live by the task function that you can use in either Outlook or Gmail. If an e-mail requires a response but I can't get to it immediately, I mark it as a task so it shows up on my to-do list.” – Lauren Reed, Reed Public Relations in Nashville
- Turn off tools that are distracting. “I turned off the pop-up Outlook notifications so, when I am focused on a task, I am not distracted by a random email coming in.” Alexis Anderson, GroundFloor Media in Denver
What tips to you have for keeping your inbox in check? Comment below and help a fellow pro out!
Gif via @EliLanger on Twitter