Five different email management tips you probably haven’t tried

new message for e-mailLet’s face it; most of the advice for managing your email inbox is pretty standard:

  •  “Unsubscribe from newsletters and lists.”
  •  “Only check email at set times.”
  • “Turn off email notifications.”

And then there are the conflicting recommendations:

  • “Use folders to organize your email messages” and “Stop using folders to organize your messages.”
  • “Use rules to automatically sort messages” and “Don’t use rules to automatically sort messages.”
  • “Subscribe using digests instead of individual messages” and “Don’t subscribe to digests.”

It can be frustrating and confusing as you try your best to be as productive as possible. Sure, you can spend a few hours getting your Inbox to zero, but then it starts all over again the next day.

While I do agree that it’s wise to unsubscribe from as many lists and notifications as possible, the real issue with managing email is how to actually handle – productively – the messages that you get. Here are five recommendations that you may not have heard before:

1. Use your Drafts folder. If you know that you are going to reply to a particular email, but need to think about your response or perhaps do some research first, go ahead and hit “Reply,” but then save the email to Drafts. Be sure to check the Drafts folder before the end of the day so you get your replies out.

2. Create response folders. Much like using the Drafts folder, you might have a couple of folders to stash emails for which you are waiting for a response (aptly named “Need Response”), or need to follow up on (“Follow Up”).

3. Create daily folders. Alternatively, you might create a folder for each day of the week and shuttle emails to the day you need to deal with the item. The secret to managing these messages, obviously, is to check the folders every day.

4. Use your calendar. I have MS Office 2010, and my favorite way to handle email is to move it to my Outlook calendar. All you have to do is click “Move,” then click “Calendar” (you might have to click “Other Folder” first) and your entire email is saved in the text area. You set the day and time you want to handle the email next. (You can also drag the message to “Calendar” on the sidebar, but then the message is saved opened.) The beauty of this is that if you have several messages regarding the same subject, you can copy them all into this same “appointment” and have everything in one place. You can also type additional notes in the text area. And you can set when you want to be reminded to deal with these projects.

I also like moving email newsletters to the calendar so I can schedule reading them when I really do have the time.

Unfortunately, I don’t see that Gmail offers this kind of function (the ability to move a Gmail message to your Google calendar). However, you could create folders in Gmail for date sensitive/calendar items.

5. Use “the cloud.” There are a number of productivity platforms that allow email uploads, including Evernote, Dropbox, Kanbanflow (premium plan) and Trello. The drawback to using these tools is that you have to make sure you are checking your preferred platform every single day. That said, if you are serious about your productivity, naturally you will be diligent about following through.

Bonus tip: Use different email addresses for different functions. For instance, you could have a specific address that only family members use, a different address for signing up for newsletters and notifications, and another that is strictly business. The downside to this is, of course, you have to remember to check in on all these different addresses.

Email continues to be one of those “mixed blessings.” Many of us rely on email in our businesses, but that also means that we have to wade through a lot of messages each day (many unwanted and unasked for).

The worst way to handle email is to open a message, skim it and go on to the next. Better to take some sort of action: answer it, move it to Drafts (or another follow-up folder), add it to the calendar or the cloud, or delete it. That way you will have made at least a little progress!

What is your best tip on managing email? Share it in the Comments section below!

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