If you’ve dug into your email preferences to help get your email under control you’ve taken a good first step. Filtering, labeling and filing can help organize your existing email, but they don’t do anything to get your incoming emails under control. To make that happen, you need to set boundaries, ground rules and procedures.
Here are five strategies to get your incoming email under control:
- Use Chat: How many times do you get email after email from a colleague with a single question, or one word reply? Email isn’t meant to be conversational, that’s best served by chat. Use Facebook, LinkedIn or Skype for conversations without cluttering up your inbox.
- Think Before You Respond: Implement the “three email rule.” After three back and forth emails, pick up the phone. This forces your colleague to get to the point, quickly. Eventually, they’ll get that if they want a quick response to just pick up their phone.
- Schedule Time For Email: Set aside time in the morning for email and set a time limit. Let your colleagues know that you are only available via email at certain times of the day. Once you’ve scheduled a time, use an auto responder to reply to any emails during off times with your schedule.
- Reply to Emails at the End of the Day: Read emails in the morning, prioritize and reply at the end of the day. Any urgent requests can be handled over the phone or in person. This cuts down on email tag and people will wait to respond until the next day when they know you’ll see it. This method also gives you time to think before you send!
- Use Other Communication Methods: People are more likely to use other forms of communication if they know you’re more likely to respond. Add your LinkedIn and Facebook contact into to your email signature. Give them your phone number for a faster reply and let colleagues know which you prefer.
Sometimes email can be overwhelming and bog you down. Set boundaries and rules to keep productive and still remain reachable when needed. Whatever rules you set, make sure to let colleagues know and stick to them.