Top ten tips for taming your email

Guest post by Alex Moore, CEO of Baydin

At Baydin, the weekly opportunity on Monday mornings to flex our muscles and rip through a few hundred emails at a staggering pace feels sort of like a NASCAR driver rounding tight turns on his final laps to victory. As the makers of email productivity tools, it’s exhilarating to know that we are plowing through email faster than nearly everyone else! For most folks, however, the Monday morning climb up email mountain is anything but pleasant. So, if the thought of opening your inbox(let alone tackling it!) on a Monday doesn’t make you leap out of bed; we’ve got the tips for you.

As part of our ongoing efforts to help folks manage email better, we’ve compiled a list from our Revive Your Inbox 21-day email course of the top 10 tips for managing email. Do you feel like your email could use a small shot in the arm? Then give these tips a read-through and start putting them into action! And if you feel like your email could use a BIG shot in the arm, sign up for the full 21-day course. Each day includes digestible, actionable information about how to make your email work better for you. Best of all, it’s completely free!

  1. Use search to find specific emails. It takes less than 30% as long to find a message using search as with any other way. Modern email clients include very powerful search capabilities – spend 15 minutes learning to use them, and it will pay dividends for years.
  2. Try turning off email notifications on your computer and your phone! Every time a notification comes up, it takes your brain over a minute to fully regain concentration.
  3. Don’t bother with complicated folder systems – research shows it’s significantly faster to find messages by scrolling through a list of every message you’ve ever received than by looking through an “organized” set of folders.
  4. Send messages at optimal times – usually just before work or during lunch, and rarely in the late afternoon. A message sent +at 7am is almost 4 times as likely to be opened as one sent +at 4pm.
  5. Leave only messages that still need your prompt attention in your inbox. Move the rest to a single old mail folder, or Archive them in Gmail. That way, your old messages are still searchable, and it’s harder for emails that aren’t “finished” to fall through the cracks.
  6. Try writing shorter emails. You’ll be surprised at how well people respond to brevity in email. A good guideline: try to keep most of your messages (though clearly not all!) under five sentences.
  7. If your schedule allows, set up specific time blocks each day to handle your email. During those times, go through your emails in batches. If possible, try not to make one of these times first thing in the morning, so that you start your day with your most important work, rather than the seemingly most urgent.
  8. Figure out a system for deferring messages to later. Research from CMU shows that over 1/3 of all email doesn’t need attention now, but needs it again later. Some options include an email reminder service like Boomerang for Gmail or Boomerang for Outlook that can bring messages back to your attention later (full disclosure: we make these!) or a system of folders like the one popularized by the Getting Things Done system. Both methods work much better than leaving dozens of messages in your inbox.
  9. If you’re sending an email where you ask for more than one thing, number your requests and put them near the top of the message. If the requests are numbered, it’s easy for the recipient to figure out what he/she needs to do!
  10. Finally, try to make the first sentence of your emails descriptive. Most mail clients show a small snippet of the message in the inbox view. Which one of these is more likely to get your attention? “Important meeting next Friday. Please RSVP!” or “Hey Frank, I’m just writing to let you know”

We hope you found these tips helpful. What are your best tips for cleaning out your email?

Baydin makes Boomerang, a Gmail plugin to schedule messages to be sent later as well as Outlook and Gmail plugins that provide simple email reminders. Baydin also makes Boomerang Calendar, a scheduling assistant for Gmail.

Alex Moore is the CEO of Baydin, which makes software that combines AI and behavioral science to ease the burden on overloaded emailers. Alex previously worked at Analog Devices and graduated with Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from MIT. When taking a break from his email, Alex makes a Chicken Florentine that tastes like angels singing and is a rabid Alabama football fan. He tweets at @awmoore.

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