Top Five Ways to Manage the Inbox Effectively

Email overload is becoming an increasing fact of life in today’s corporate world. The average user spends two hours a day in email, but is becoming increasingly less effective as the inbox overflows with spam, unopened messages, and overdue action items. Utilize the inbox management tips below to help manage this flood of information.

1. Prioritize messages to insure that important email is addressed first.
Use automated tools to order by priority. Identify important people or key words and use rules to organize messages.

2. Respond in a timely fashion.
Don’t let important emails fester in the inbox. Attempt to respond to email within a set time frame (say, 8 hours). Send a short note with estimated response time if a delay is anticipated. Send automated replies if out of the office or overwhelmed on a project.

3. Use the inbox as a “to do” list.
Try to touch an email message one time only. Where possible, respond on first read and file away in an appropriate folder. If the message requires further attention, validate assigned priority (point #1). Flag messages for future response and/or convert to a calendar event for a future appointment.

4. Read the entire thread before responding.
There are often several responses to an email thread during the course of a day. Read all items in the thread before crafting a response. Sort the inbox by title when addressing a message with a lot of responses.

5. Don’t become a slave to email.
Set aside times to manage email (say, 9 AM, Noon, and 4 PM) and stay away the rest of the day. Using the email management principles above, you will get through your inbox quicker, address all issues within a given thread and your colleagues will still be impressed with your response time.