How to keep your inbox under control

How to keep your inbox under control

That email remains indispensible for workplace communication is surely beyond doubt, even in these days of Slack and similar services. Using email correctly, however, is something even seasoned professionals could learn more about.

For instance, they could pick up some pointers from a little guide that Roi Ben-Yehuda recently compiled for “Fast Company”. The article also discusses why we can’t do without email – we won’t go into that here, but if you’re interested in finding out more take a look at the original. What’s particularly interesting is the advice the author gives readers for dealing with their inbox in a sensible way.

To start with Ben-Yehuda advises everyone to examine their personal email behavior by way of a little audit. Only if you know how many times a day you check your inbox for new incoming messages, argues the author, are you able to change your email habits. Your behavior may even change automatically, just because you become aware of how often you have been checking your messages.

As a next step, in most cases it would make sense to prioritize incoming messages. One tried and tested way of organizing such an email hierarchy is according to the importance of the sender – an email from your boss should obviously be handled differently to a weekly newsletter. The US self-help guide author Jocelyn K. Glei (Unsubscribe), for instance, assigns her emails to five categories of senders:

  1. VIPs: People whose messages require immediate attention
  2. Key collaborators: People who you work with and require timely answers
  3. Fun people: People with whom communication is enjoyable, but not really necessary
  4. Potentials: People who may become important at some stage (but you’re not sure yet)
  5. Randoms: People whose messages were uninvited and are not verified by a trusted source

The author also advises readers to join the 5 Sentences Movement. This movement aims – as the name suggests – to reduce email responses to a maximum of five sentences. Anything exceeding that should rather be clarified in a phone call or meeting. In principle, this self-imposed restriction benefits all parties.

Last, but not least, emails should be dealt with according to a batch processing principle. In other words, the inbox should only be checked at specific, pre-defined times. This helps you to handle inbound emails strategically, and not merely reactively. To enable batching it is advisable to deactivate all alerts, notifications and pop-ups from your email client as far as possible, in addition to blocking out scheduled times in your calendar for processing incoming messages. Most users have found it sensible to batch their emails into three periods per day, Ben-Yehuda says, but it may of course make sense to check your email more regularly – the main thing is to remain aware and act deliberately.

We outlined tips for dealing with emails more securely in a previous blog post. Generally, it’s certainly desirable for only truly necessary emails to end up in your inbox: no spam, no “graymail”, no phishing attempts. In this regard, pre-filtering your messages with a sophisticated service like Retarus Email Security can provide you with crucial assistance. If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, please take a look at our website or get in touch with your local Retarus representative.

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