Tips for Email Management Strategies

By K.J. McCorry

E-mail has become the number one method of communicating, and it is taking more time than ever. In fact, answering e-mail could take more than two hours a day, according Ferris Research study. In order to keep on top of e-mail and not become overwhelmed, it is important to manage it appropriately.

The following tips and suggestions will help you gain control of your daily flood of email:

email organization

Tip 1: Keep the in-box clear of clutter

The in-box is like your in-box on your desk; a place that information should come in and move quickly out. Only e-mail that you haven’t yet read or still must take action should remain in your in-box. Once response and action is taken, delete or file the e-mail immediately; this will keep your in-box current and bring clarity and focus to the email items you must deal with.

Tip 2: Set up e-mail rules and filters

Use the rules or filters function to help the initial sort of incoming e-mail. Some e-mail software will use the term "filters" and other software will use the term "rules," both are essentially the same function.

Filter and rule functions automatically move or delete unwanted mail before it hits the in-box. For example, you can determine that all e-mail messages containing a certain subject heading should be deleted before entering the in-box or that e-mail from a particular sender is automatically moved into a specified folder. When you set up a rule or filter, the incoming e-mail will re-direct and move to a different file folder and is diverted from your in-box entirely. This is particularly helpful for distribution lists and/or newsletters that you may not need to see daily and could review on a weekly or monthly basis. This is also particularly useful if you have a friend who always forwards jokes or other unimportant e-mail that you can filter out automatically.

create a rule in outlook 2007In Outlook, you can set up a Quick Rule by doing the following:

  1. Highlight email and right-click.

  2. Click on Create Rule.

  3. In the Create Rule dialog box make sure to check a condition in the top and bottom half of the window.

  4. When finished, click OK.

To change, deactivate or edit the rule, go to Tools / Rules and Alerts. Highlight the rule and click on Change Rule.

Tip 3: Take time to manage email

Create designated time to deal with e-mail. By quickly scanning e-mail and not dealing with it immediately, you lose time by having to reread and make decisions again. Take time to deal with your e-mail at certain intervals during the day and then concentrate on your other action items.

Like other important communication tasks, respond to e-mail immediately when possible. Delaying your reply after scanning your e-mail is lost time—you have to reread and make decisions again on the same piece of e-mail. Decide what e-mail is important to respond to immediately and leave the forwarded or joke e-mail for a later time. Most e-mail software programs have various utilities to “flag” e-mail that you can use to clearly identify high priority messages.

Tip 4: Develop a file structure for email

Save e-mail messages by creating individual folders under your in-box. Once an e-mail has been read and acted on, click and drag the message from the in-box to the appropriate folder. Consider setting up your e-mail folders similar to your files in your filing cabinet or on your computer hard drive. Having similar file systems will help you remember where the information is located. Be wary of creating too many folders that leave too many options to choose from- ideally, you should not have to scroll down to see other e-mail files. If that is the case, consider sub-filing under general topics. For example create a folder called “clients” and create sub-files of specific client names underneath.

file structure for emailShown here is a sample email file outline structure in Microsoft Outlook. To create a new file folder, highlight the inbox and select File, New, Folder; the New Folder window appears. Enter the name of the file folder and click OK.

Tip 5: Tag email for further action and/or follow-up

Most email programs have a follow-up function that will flag email in your in-box. Once flagged, you will see the flag in the in-box screen. Most programs have a separate view or folder that will show in one view all your flagged email. This makes it easy to quickly see the email you need to respond or provide further action.

In Outlook or Lotus Notes you can also convert an email into a calendar or task folder. This is extremely useful if you have an email that was not sent as a meeting invitation and needs to be on your calendar. Or if you have an email that will be an on-going task or action item that needs to be listed in the task list. When you convert an email to the calendar or task folders, it will copy the body of the email into the text/note space of the calendar and task window. This notes section will sync will handheld and Smartphone devises so that you have that information will you when you are not in your office. This is an extremely useful feature to manage your emails that are task or calendar type items.

flag an email in outlook Shown here is an example of how to flag an email in Microsoft Outlook. Simply right click on the email, choose Follow-Up and then choose option from the drop down.

For more information on how to become a successful email manager, download a 30-page report on Becoming an Effective Email Manager from the downloads page below.

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