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Increase Your Productivity Levels with These Email Tips

Leaving your inbox unsupervised for just an hour can result in a deluge of new emails, all eagerly awaiting your response. But to manage your stress levels, it’s important to take a strategic approach to managing your inbox. While you might be tempted to reply to each email, we all know that this can be a massive time waster and distractor. We often spend so much time replying to emails, that we end up doing little to no work. One way to avoid this is to work towards what’s called ‘inbox zero.’

There are many ways of achieving this, but most of the methods centre around creating different labels and filters that prioritise your emails, and therefore, your replies.

In this post, I’ll share with you how you can effectively manage your email inbox so you can spend more time on work and less on composing emails.

What’s inbox zero all about?

It’s an email management approach that aims to keep your inbox level at empty, or near empty, at all times. The concept was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann, who said that the number zero is a reference to “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox”.

The inbox zero principles

Mann devised five possible actions to take for each email that we receive: delete, delegate, respond, defer and do. While there are certainly different approaches to attaining inbox zero, Mann recommends the following for effective email management:

  • Don’t leave your email client on. Rather check and process your emails at intervals throughout the day, perhaps at every hour. Some people are advocates for scheduling in email time each day. Test out both methods and find what works best for you
  • Delete or archive as many new emails as possible
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate. Forward on any emails that can be answered or actioned by someone else
  • For emails that require little brain power, respond to immediately. These should take you no more than two minutes each
  • Create an Action Required folder, and move emails here that require a more detailed response, or emails that don’t require an immediate response
  • Work your way through the Action Required folder throughout the day


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The importance of folders

Folders are the key to successful email management. Try creating the following folders in your inbox and action every email you receive by either responding immediately or assigning into one of the following folders:

  • For Review. This folder should be for emails that don’t require immediate attention, but that need to be reviewed by the end of the week
  • Action Required. Move emails here that necessitate a follow up or completion of a task
  • Awaiting. To keep tabs on your tasks, move emails into this folder if you’re awaiting a response
  • Delegated. As mentioned above, this folder is for emails that you’ve forwarded onto other team members for actioning
  • Archived. This folder is good for filing away emails that have been actioned, without leaving your inbox cluttered and confused

How to create folders in Outlook

  • Right-click on “Inbox” and click “New Folder”
  • Type in the names of the folders as suggested above
  • If you would like to create rules for your incoming emails, click “Rules” in your navigation panel and then click “Create Rules”
  • Tick the appropriate boxes in the pop-up box for any repetitive metrics

Determine what belongs in your inbox

Unsubscribe from social media updates and irrelevant newsletters. For long-form articles that you want to read on your commute to and from work or on your lunch break, download apps like Instapaper or Flipboard to keep your inbox clutter-free.

Of course, if you’re really pressed for time and would like someone to do all the sorting, labelling and filtering for you, then I suggest you try SaneBox. It’s key feature is its ability to prioritise all of your important emails and summarise the rest in a daily digest. You can move your emails from your inbox to your filtered list (and vice versa) to train SaneBox into recognising which emails are important to you.

Attaining inbox zero can be a process to begin with, but it’s certainly worth the initial effort. In my experience, I’ve significantly cut down my email time while increasing my productivity and regulating my stress levels.


Photo credit: AJC ajcann.wordpress.com via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

By Nick Bell

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