Email – Top tips to manage your inbox

Top tips for email management

My husband has been a helicopter engineer for 27 years and in order to work nearer home, he has just taken a management position at a local airport. The transition to life in an office has been a bit of a learning curve. The preferred method of communication is email and they come in thick and fast every day as the airport is open 18 hours a day.

I’ve been coaching him with top tips to manage this amount of emails as I realise after 26 years office experience for the Met Police I’ve picked up a thing or two. I also spoke to my brother about this as he transitioned from an electrician to a maintenance manager and he was after these tips too. It turns out most manual workers who move into management positions are not given the right tools to be successful in an office environment.

Hopefully these top tips will help any people new to office work and give reassurance to any experienced office workers.

1. Have a set time to answer emails.

Checking emails all day every day is a terrible time stealer making you feel like you never achieve anything. Do a quick check of when is the best time for you to respond, no point in checking at 8am if most of your emails will come in after 9am. Try not to keep checking unless there is a crucial response you are waiting for.

2. Review the circulation lists you are on.

If you’re copied into lots of emails that are for information only and not for your action, it might be an opportunity to get off of unnecessary lists. Chances are these circulation lists have evolved over time and there are others who are in the same boat as you. Or it might be that technology has moved on and emails keeping everyone updated can be replaced by a project management system such as Trello.

3. Colour code your emails to highlight those that require prioritising.

You can colour code a certain email address that requires your urgent attention or put your emails in a different colour if you are only copied into the email Click here

4. Unsubscribe to circulars.

GDPR gave us an excellent excuse not to “opt in” to regular newsletters but there might be some emails still lingering that you don’t really need to see. I know that when I started my business I signed up to loads of email groups and newsletters for info but now that I’m established, these are no longer relevant so I’ve unsubscribed.

5. Automatically file reference emails.

Are there emails you always put into a folder as you might need to refer to them again? I have update emails from the Information Commissioner that I need to keep and these always come from the same email address. You can set up a rule to automatically move to a folder which might allow you to read them at a more convenient time Click here

6. Use categories to group emails of a similar nature.

Use categories to enable you to deal with emails of a similar nature on one go.  As a resource manager, I used to manage annual leave. I would use the categories to mark all these emails so rather than dealing with them one by one I can deal with 5 or 6 in one go saving some more time.

7. Use flags to remind you when to return to an action.

Put a date on it and it will flag up as a reminder for you to return to this email.

8. Archive finished emails.

Don’t waste time putting emails into folders, you can archive them instead. Archive deletes the email from your inbox but you can always find it again using the search function.

9. Mark emails as unread

Change emails to unread of you need to return to action them. In Outlook just right click on the message and it should give you the option to mark as unread.

10. Accept it’s ok to have lots of unread emails.

Chances are you know whose emails you can’t ignore, so focus on them. All office workers are going through the same email struggles and it’s perfectly acceptable to say I haven’t read that email yet but I will as soon as I get back to my desk. You’re not being inefficient, there are just too many emails.

These are processes that helped me get back on top of my inbox, but let me know if you have any other useful tips.

Check out my other posts
Top 10 tips for working from home for yourself

Want to delegate but too busy to know where to start?

How to decide what administration to outsource to a virtual assistant…


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