In the modern workplace, it is almost inevitable that email will have a significant role to play in the day to day operations.
Offices use it to get messages from one desk or branch to another, retail stores need it for administrative reasons, and factories require it to get information from the main office to the production area.
For freelance graphic designers, the presence of email can lead to an organisational and time management headache, even if you’re only sending and receiving a few messages a day.
Once the emails start to flood into your inbox, the golden question revolves around how much time you are willing to dedicate per day to keeping it under control.
Email has become a victim of its own success. A number of prominent business figures are saying they would rather keep their communications away from ‘old-fashioned’ email.
So this may be the perfect time to start following these ‘best practice’ tips for your inbox.
The ‘Inbox Zero’ rule
This way of working theoretically allows you to keep your inbox entirely clear at all times, or you can also employ it to at least leave your incoming message folder empty at the end of the day. This can be achieved by:
- Creating subfolders to hold messages in terms of when they need to be actioned, such as ‘Urgent,’ ‘Today’ and ‘Low-Priority’ folders.
- Performing a sweep to delete irrelevant messages as often as possible during the working day.
- Identifying messages that would be best answered by another member of staff, before forwarding them on accordingly.
- Dedicating an hour or so each day (perhaps before going home) where you solely concentrate on responding to messages and clearing out anything that is irrelevant.
You can find more suggestions on achieving Inbox Zero here.
Limit your email usage to a certain time of the day
If using your email only makes up for a small proportion of your working activities, leaving it constantly open could end up eating into time that could be better spent elsewhere.
Even if you only open your email software for an hour or two, you can achieve the following:
- Disciplined timings for email use means you will not be dragged into long-term email exchanges with that client who insists upon messaging you all day long.
- You can solely concentrate on replying to one email, and then deal with the others in turn. This is opposed to dipping in and out for the whole day and letting your mind get distracted by other messages which show up.
Set up a number of automatic replies
An ‘out of office’ message can be set up for when you are away from your desk.
Mainstream email software can also be programmed to analyse incoming messages to reply automatically with a pre-set response. The incoming message itself can be automatically filed elsewhere to be reviewed at a later point.
This could be used for the following:
- If you find yourself dealing with the same question over and over again, you could filter out certain ‘buzz words,’ and then send an automatic FAQ document in response.
- Certain contacts can receive their own personalised automatic reply if you are aware their usual issues should be dealt with by a colleague.
Take time to educate your spam or junk filter
No matter how comprehensive your spam recognition rules may be, there will usually be the occasional email that slips through the net. If this is becoming an issue, you can include the following as part of your daily email maintenance routine:
- Mark all junk messages meticulously. This is the only way your inbox will learn how to spot certain junk-like trends in content.
- Manually add certain domain names to your spam filter if you notice they are responsible for persistent spam.
- If possible, skim through the junk folder to spot messages placed there in error, and click ‘Not Junk.’