Remember that important email you got weeks ago? Could you find it if you tried, or is it buried in a sea of replies and forwards in your Inbox?

Technology’s a double-edged sword. It makes us more productive at times, but it also keeps us from being productive at others. I’m by no means an Organized Email Guru, but I have picked up a few tips and tricks I’d like to share with you.

1. Organize Your Inbox

One of the many reasons I love Google Mail is that you can create mini inboxes within your main Inbox. It’s called Priority Inbox, and it allows you to set up filters so that incoming emails fall under certain headers. So for me, I have my main inbox, then others for Story Ideas as well as individual clients. I can set each up to filter to a given box. For example, if Nellie sends me an email, I can set it up so that anything coming from her email automatically goes to an inbox called CorpNet. I can quickly scroll down and see where I have a new email.

I love this because there’s nothing more daunting than a giant list of unread emails. This helps me prioritize, because I know which categories demand my attention first.

2. Reply, Delete or Save

I adapt this tip from David Allen’s great book, Getting Things Done. When you view an email, immediately decide if you need to:

  • Quickly reply with a short answer
  • Read and delete
  • Save for when you have more time to craft a response

I’d even add to this one: Unsubscribe. A lot of our email comes from newsletters or promotional emails we didn’t sign up to receive, or no longer are interested in. I make it a point to open these and unsubscribe from them rather than simply delete and have to deal with them again in a few weeks.

3. Organize Read Email

If your first instinct after reading an email is to delete it, hesitate and consider whether you will ever need to come back to this email for reference down the road. I set up Labels in my email for this purpose. If a client and I have a conversation about what services my company will provide, I can easily click the label with my client’s name and refer back to that email. Google only stores your deleted emails for a few months, so if you do delete an email you need, it might not be there later.

4. Designate Email Time

I don’t practice this one too well, as I’m an email addict! But if you can, decide when you will spend some time working on your Inbox. For me, a lot of my emails are sent first thing in the morning. If you can set up just two or three times a day to check and respond to emails, this will make you more productive in other areas, as you won’t constantly be checking to see if you have new email.

5. Set Up Templates

If you regularly send out similar emails, such as responses to people interested in working for your company, create a template you can modify. This will save you loads of time in recrafting it each time!

Don’t let email take over your life. It’s meant to make you more productive, not less!

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