17 Strategies To Manage Emails (With Benefits and Tips)
Updated October 18, 2022
Email is one of the main tools that people use to communicate with one another in the modern workplace. Being able to manage and organize your email account can help you prioritize your work tasks and ensure a clear line of communication with your team. By implementing a few simple email management tips, you can save a significant amount of time that you might have spent sorting through a crowded inbox.
In this article, we list some of the best methods you can use to manage your email inbox and improve your email communication practices.
Why is email management important?
Proper email management can influence many aspects of your experience in the workplace. Once you transform your disorganized email inbox by developing good email management habits, you can enjoy the benefits of more efficient, functional communications. Effective email management can impact your job in the following ways:
Using email management strategies can lower the amount of time you spend trying to locate specific emails, sort your unread messages or reply to messages. By being proactive about your incoming emails and using a defined system, you can spend more time on other responsibilities instead of email administration. This can help you work more efficiently, which can also help reduce work-related stress.
Having easy access to the most important emails and using a system to respond to low-priority messages enables you to accomplish your goals faster and reduce response times. The faster you can communicate back and forth with your contacts, the sooner you can move forward with other objectives. This can allow you to complete more tasks daily.
Email management helps you ensure that you don't miss any important communications or accidentally ignore an important message. If you have good email management habits, you can demonstrate more reliability by always delivering an appropriate, timely response. Increasing your reliability can help improve your relationship with your colleagues and clients and ensure that you stay well-informed.
Having an organized email inbox makes it easier for you to find and reference old emails. Good email management systems allow you to quickly access emails based on their category even if you don't remember the right keywords to search. This can help you review previous communications and retain information.
Related: How To Manage Your Email
17 strategies to help you manage your email
If you're ready to improve your email habits and manage your messages more effectively, try using these key strategies:
1. Redirect communications
Having a high volume of emails can be intimidating, even if you already have a good email organization system in place. Reducing the number of incoming messages you receive each day is one of the best strategies for avoiding a messy inbox. Ask your colleagues to take advantage of other communication channels like phone calls, instant messages or in-person meetings if possible. Post your other contact details in your email account profile so your coworkers know how to call or message you for quick questions instead of sending an email.
2. Create a document for frequently asked questions
Another way to reduce the volume of emails you get is to create a shared document that answers frequently asked questions related to your position. If you find your colleagues regularly ask the same question, add it to the document with instructions on how to address the question. Asking your contacts to check the frequently asked questions (FAQ) document on a shared drive before emailing you can save you time on answering emails by providing reference materials to your team.
3. Set up email previews
Enable email previews for your email account to see the first few words or sentences of each email while viewing your full inbox. Often, it's hard to determine the content or urgency of an email using only the subject line. Email previews can help you avoid opening an email and then re-tagging it as "unread" later. By skimming the preview without opening the email, you can mentally determine which emails require immediate attention and which ones you should sort for a future reply.
4. Establish a limit for response time
Set a boundary with yourself about how long you're willing to have an email in your inbox. Determine a maximum limit to keep you from putting off a response until you forget about the email or miss a deadline. Depending on your position, this could range from a few hours to several days. You can maintain accountability for your response time by setting up an auto-response that guarantees a reply within a certain time frame.
5. Automate as much as possible
Streamline your incoming messages by turning on automatic sorting rules through your email providers. You can automatically forward, sort and delete incoming emails based on specific conditions, including the name of the sender, email keywords and other details. If you do a simple organization task repeatedly, consider if there's an email rule that can automate the task for you. Other email automation tasks include setting emails to delete after a certain time, archiving inactive email threads and sending reminder notifications.
6. Keep your contacts updated
Saving and sorting your email contacts is an important part of successful email management. Being able to easily access your frequent contacts can help you save time looking for the right email and prevent you from accidentally sending an email to an outdated or inaccurate email address. Creating contact profiles for email addresses can also help you track communications with a specific individual over time. If one person has multiple email accounts associated with them, link the emails together in your address book to ensure consistent communication.
7. Organize your inbox in stages
There are many folder organization systems you can use to manage your email. One populate strategy is to organize your inbox in stages, including emails that require further action before a response, emails that need a follow up and resolved email threads. Organizing your emails based on what you need to do to move forward can make it easy for you to follow up on projects and avoid missing a pending task. Once you respond to an email or receive a reply, move the email thread into the folder for the next stage of the communication process.
Related: 12 Tips To Organize Your Gmail Inbox
8. Label your emails with a few key categories
Email labels are useful tools that help you sort your emails into sub-categories by adding a descriptive tag. Consider what types of categories you would use most often, and then use them consistently to add additional context to your emails. Using a combination of folders and email labels can help you find useful cross-sections of information while keeping up with responses on time.
9. Set an inbox limit
Establish a goal to keep the total number of emails in your inbox under a certain number. Some people aim to have an empty inbox at all times, while others may not avoid having a much larger inbox. Setting an inbox limit doesn't mean you have to read and respond to all emails as they come in. Instead, it involves sorting unread messages into folders based on their stage and priority level so you can manage them in batches at an appropriate time.
10. Combine and track email chains
Email chains can be a simple way to follow a conversation, but they can also create confusion if there are multiple responses and email threads from different people. When responding to a complex email chain, try to merge all threads of communication into one main email chain. You can quote other emails in your reply to create a chronological record of the conversation in one convenient spot. This prevents the information from becoming fragmented and helps keep other people in the email thread focused.
11. Enable an image blocker
Many people include images in their email signature, which can quickly clutter your inbox in an email thread with multiple replies. It can be hard to find the information you need if you have to scroll through large image files in each email response. Using an image blocker can remove these distracting images and eliminate bulky formatting, which makes your emails easier to read and process. Image blockers can also decrease the amount of time it takes for you to fully load each image, which can help you sort and reply faster.
12. Read your emails when you can respond
Dedicate some time each day to read and respond to emails. While you should sort your emails based on their subject, sender and preview ahead of time, wait to actually open the emails until you have time to reply. If the email ends up being urgent, you don't want to accidentally forget about it by opening the email and intending to reply later when you have more time. Schedule time slots for responding to new emails, sending follow-up replies and composing outgoing emails. This can prevent you from spending too much time on your emails throughout the day.
13. Sync your emails with a calendar
For especially important emails, make a note on your work calendar. Email can be a useful scheduling tool if you can organize all communications based on a master calendar. You can even use email features and plug-ins to automatically sync your calendar alters with any emails that mention dates. This is especially useful for following up with other people about a response or checking in about a project based on certain deadlines.
14. Review your read messages regularly
Successful email management can limit the number of emails you miss, but you should still double-check your inbox regularly. Skimming your opened messages once a week can help you recover if you accidentally clicked an email or forgot to press send on your reply. Using this technique can catch any mistakes before they cause a significant lapse in communication. It can also help you feel more confident that your email management habits are working.
15. Set up unsubscribe plug-ins
Email newsletters and other subscriptions can quickly fill your inbox with promotions, blog posts and reminder emails that you don't actually want to read. Unsubscribing to each email list individually can be tedious and time-consuming. You may not even know how you got on certain email lists. Download a plug-in to automatically unsubscribe from email lists and manage your incoming emails using a simple interface that integrates with your email account.
16. Use email management software
While your email account probably has some basic email management tools, you can access a range of other features by downloading email management software. This is ideal for people who manage large accounts that field hundreds of emails every day. Email management software features can help you improve email security, adjust your interface, track communications and integrate various communication channels.
17. Print physical copies of critical information
When you receive an extremely high-priority email, print out a copy to save for your physical files. This protects you from accidentally deleting or archiving an important document. Having a physical copy of important emails can ensure you prioritize communication and remind you to address key information. Printed copies can also give you access to information without an internet connection and visually sort the progress of a project.
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