We all live and breathe emails every business day. The first thing in the morning, you catch up on overnight emails. Monday morning, you get to deal with a whole weekend’s worth of emails. And if you take a vacation, you’ll feel like you need an entire day to catch up! I can’t help reduce the number of emails you get, but I can give you some tips that might make managing them a bit more palatable.
I am going to show just a few tips that you can use in Outlook, as that is the most popular email client around. If you use Gmail or any other email client, many of these tips may still work for you, and you might even find shortcuts that aren’t included in Outlook!
Create tasks directly from an Email
Some emails don’t require an immediate response, but you want to address them either later in the day or sometime in the future. Instead of leaving them in your inbox, you can quickly create a task with a reminder so you won’t forget about it.
- Create a task by dragging the email on to Outlook’s task list icon.
- When the task window opens you can add a due date and set a reminder, and save the task. You will receive a pop-up alert when the reminder date/time is reached.
Create temporary folders to quickly organize Email
Most people create folders in their inbox to file emails by a subject, person, idea, etc. That’s a great way to store emails for future reference. But what about emails in your inbox that you need to address before filing them away? Most people just leave them in their inbox, and address them when they have time. An alternative is to create some “triage” folders. In this example we’ll create 3 folders: “To Do”, “Follow-up”, and “Someday.”
To create these folders:
- Right-click your “Inbox” folder, and select “New Folder”
- Name this folder “To Do”
- Right-click the “To Do” folder, and select “New Folder”
- Name this folder “Follow-up”
- Right-click the “To Do” folder again, and select “New Folder”
- Name this folder “Someday”
- Name this folder “Someday”
Now you have four folders for incoming emails, and you can use all four to manage your email and keep your inbox clear.
When new emails arrive, move them to the appropriate folder:
- Inbox – The only emails that stay in your inbox are those that you should answer immediately. They’re either urgent or can be handled quickly (in three minutes or less).
- To Do – Drag non-urgent emails and emails that require more than a three-minute response into your To Do folder. You’ll follow up on these items later, but moving them immediately keeps your inbox empty while you process the emails and help identify and address the most important ones.
- Follow Up – Move emails to this folder that are put on hold. Things like replies you’re waiting to hear from or tasks that you’ve delegated.
- Someday – Some emails don’t require a response. Instead, they’re things you’d like to read, review, or come back to when you have time. Drag those into the someday folder and set time aside on your calendar to periodically review this folder.
The Outlook Ignore Function
Most people know how to create rules to address email as they come in, skipping the inbox and moving the email to a folder. That is so routinely used that I’m not even going to show you how to set them up. But sometimes you get an annoying email thread that you don’t want to participate in (Think: Who wants tofu for lunch?). You can quickly choose to ignore the thread, including all future replies. Just right click on the email, select “Ignore,” and confirm the action.
At times you may perform several tasks in response to an email. For instance, you may move an email from your boss to a special “Boss” folder you have created, mark it as read, and then write a reply to it. In this case you can setup a Quick Step to do all three things in one click.
- Click the “Create New” button in the Quick Steps section of the Home ribbon in Outlook
- Give the new Quick Step a descriptive name (Reply to Boss) and select the first action, “Move to folder”, and select the folder to move the email to (Boss).
- Click on Add Action and select Mark as read
- Click on Add Actions, select Reply, and click the save button
To use the Quick Part, simply select an email and click on the Quick Part. The email will be moved, marked as read, and a reply window opened for you to type your response.
Set a Time
Block time to review and respond to email. Checking email throughout the day can be very disrupting if your trying to concentrate on tasks. Schedule a time and stick to it.
The tips above are just a start to help you stay on top of emails, organize your inbox, and perhaps reach and maintain the allusive “Inbox Zero.”
Senior Technical Solutions, Training, and Product Manager
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128