Taking Control of My Inbox

Be Productive – Tools to Manage Your Inbox

Look at that guy in the picture – doesn’t he look happy, like he has really achieved something? Maybe he has removed some stress from his day? Want to feel the same way? Are you ready to try something new? Then keep reading !

Email Techniques and Tools

When I ask people what stops them being productive they mostly say, dealing with all my EMAIL!  And the problem seems to be growing. In a previous article I looked at ways to Take Control of Your Inbox by choosing when to check email and using a process to read and sort messages quickly. But why stop there? Let’s see what tools are available so we can really get organised, reduce our volume of incoming mail and win back some time to be productive.

Not Easy

Like all worthwhile things, you need to invest some time up front. But it’s an investment that will not only give instant results but an improvement that can be sustained. So  here is a list of my top tips to manage your Inbox. Scroll down further to get more details about each one. And if you need further information just contact us via our website beproductive.ie .

Top Tools

  1. Use an Email Process to Sort your Emails
  2. Use Rules to Reduce Decisions and Filing
  3. Use Colour Coding to Prioritise
  4. Use Autotext to automate Routine Text Entry
  5. Clarify Actions for Others
  1. Use The Email Process

Outlined in the graphic below, this gives you a mechanism to process your emails quickly, delete what you don’t need, file what you do and make sure you follow up on what’s important.

Here is a link to the full article: Be Productive – Take Control of Your Inbox

Email Take Control Process

Email Take Control Process

  1. Use Rules/Filters

Rules in MS Outlook and Filters in Gmail help you reduce manual filing and decision-making about what to do with your regular emails. The rules are always turned on and run automatically so the trick is to use this approach for the correct emails, set them up correctly, test them out and then trust them to work.

The Rules Wizard in MS Outlook is on the Home menu. It presents a multitude of options for setting criteria to identify the correct emails and the correct action you want Outlook to take. Rules can be used to automatically File, Respond, Delete, Forward messages or Send Notifications.

Use to automatically file emails into a specific folder from a publication subscription or a LinkedIN group or your social media alerts. These lower priority emails don’t require action as soon as they arrive so ensure they don’t clutter your Inbox or break your focus. You are now in control of when you address them.

Top Tip: Don’t forget about emails automatically filed, check regularly.

  1. Use Colour Coding to Prioritise

Visually sort and prioritise incoming messages so you don’t overlook an important one from a client or from your manager or related to a particular project. The colour code is set up based on the Sender, the Subject or whether your name is in the To: or Cc or Bcc field.

From the View menu chose Settings, then Conditional Formatting and Add New Conditional format to set the colour for your priority messages.

Top Tip: Don’t overuse this tool or your Inbox will look like a rainbow!

Use it strategically for one or two key priorities, then the impact of that colour in your Inbox is maximised.

  1. Automate Routine Text Entry

In MS Outlook Quick Parts allows you save and reuse routine blocks of text.  You can insert the saved text any time in a subsequent email.  This is based on the Autotext concept you may have used in MS Word in the past. The equivalent functionality in Gmail is called Canned Response Text. To re-use the saved text just start typing the first few words, the saved text will pop up and just press enter to enter!

  1. Clarify Actions

Make sure you specify how you want your recipients to respond to your emails. Avoid back and forth clarification emails. Specify what action is required either at the beginning or the end of the message. Ask yourself the 4 classic questions: Who, Why, What and When.  Pick language you know fits your team culture. Develop an agreed approach with your colleagues and increase the chance of improved productivity across the team.

Top Tip: Don’t offend people by being too INSTRUCTIONAL

If the message is very short consider typing it in the Subject line so the recipients don’t even have to open it.  Here are some Subject line ideas, but again the best thing is to develop this with your colleagues so they don’t find your new approach annoying!

  • Action Required: Review attached presentation by Friday 27/5/16
  • Project Y: Meeting confirmed 1pm tomorrow, Board Room
  • FYI on Project X: No need to respond
  • Lunch confirmed today 1pm in NCH

Some people use acronyms like EOM for “end of message” or NRR “no reply required” to make things really clear.

So try these tools and see if you can turn them into a habit. Let me know what works for you. And of course please share any other ideas, tips or tools in the Comments below.

If you would like further information on setting up these tools or wish to attend our Email Management workshops, please contact us at http://beproductive.ie

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