Complex Made Simple

When “deleting” is not enough: 9 hacks to keep your emails on a leash

You will need to follow these 9 hacks to get your emails under control. The last piece of advice is the best

Use an automated message to help you get on top of things It feels great to mass annihilate and destroy any newsletters, PR, articles, or advertising you don't need When writing emails, say what you mean, be clear, and be concise. Expanding only leads to trouble

With remote work allowing you to take a nap here and there, there is nothing worse than waking up to emails oozing out of your laptop, like some type of oil spill.

Even nastier is being on a leave and returning to a loaded backlog of people seeking your immediate attention.

You will need to follow these hacks to get your emails under control.

Email secrets revealed  

Yessi Bello Perez, editor at UNLEASH, says: “I don’t know about you but I fantasize about an email-free life at least once a day. No follow-ups, no irrelevant messages, just bliss! Having a relatively clear inbox is my online equivalent to tidying my desk.”

Many of us share those feelings so here’s what you can do.

Read: Resilience is what will make you or break you in 2021- 7 ways to build it

1- Keep your auto-responder on

Use an automated message to help you get on top of things, says Lauren Stratford, of Seriously Sorted.

“Sometimes I will put an autoresponder on to say ‘thanks for your email, this is my first week back and I’m endeavoring to get through my emails within ‘X’ amount of hours’,” Stratford says.

An automated response throughout the year – perhaps detailing email turnaround times or providing a link to a frequently asked questions page – may also help lighten the load, she says.

2- Give yourself time

Wendy Cole, of iMastery, recommends the Pomodoro Technique of working in 25-minute sprints, interspersed with short breaks.

“Assuming there are more than 100 emails in the inbox, I would do four 25-minute sprints,” she says and suggests setting yourself rewards for completing tasks. 

3- Switch your email to offline

Working offline will help you focus on clearing that inbox, says Cole.

“You don’t want new emails coming in because that’s going to be distracting and potentially deflating,” she says.

You can still respond to emails as part of the clean-up process – they’ll just be parked in your outbox until you switch your email back to online.

4- Boss first approach

Don’t read chronologically. Find your boss’ emails first and then move to important colleague communications. The rest can wait. 

5- Junk it

This is one of my favorites.  It feels great to mass annihilate and destroy any newsletters, PR, articles, or advertising you don’t need. And if it does, do it more often, for the fun of it. If by any chance you deleted something important, whoever it is will get back at you. They need you or else they needn’t have contacted you.   

Read: Nearly two thirds in the UAE admit to opening emails they considered suspicious, finds survey

6- Divide and conquer

Cole recommends sorting the remaining emails into three ‘buckets’: things that need actioning, those that need reading, and personal emails.

Then it’s time to apply a system she calls the ‘Four Ds’: Delete, do the work, delegate, or defer it to the to-do list.

7- Unsubscribe

If you’re not in a rush on a particular morning you might even try to identify one or two regular emailers to unsubscribe from. This not to mention obliterating email notifications you once thought were useful to click on them. 

8- Keep it short 

When writing emails, say what you mean, be clear, and be concise. Expanding only leads to trouble. Writing short helps the people who read your message get to the point and process their email more efficiently. They may pick up on your tone and reply succinctly.  

9- Create email templates 

Saving the best for last here. If there’s a message that you send over and over, don’t write it from scratch each time. Reuse what you’ve already written by making a template or canned response, as Gmail calls it.

A few examples of messages people send frequently are along the lines of:

“Thanks for reaching out, but I’m not interested.”

“The best point of contact for your query is … .”

Yep, make it someone else’s problem, hehehe.