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how to emailEmail is one of those things that started off as a convenience feature but quickly became something to dread. I know that when I have hundreds of unread emails, my gut quickly sinks into a deep void and I ignore those emails for even longer. But maybe if we were to adopt the tips and tricks of the pros of email, we would not view our inbox as an obstacle.

There are a lot of factors that play into email efficiency – not just writing the emails, but setting up the inbox, managing emails, knowing when to check emails, and more. Boosting email efficiency means boosting productivity, and that ultimately means getting everything done in less time. That’s exactly what we want.

Note: One aspect of being a pro at email is to stay safe and secured. Read these 7 important email security tips 7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About 7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About Internet security is a topic that we all know to be important, but it often sits way back in the recesses of our minds, fooling ourselves into believing that "it won’t happen to me". Whether... Read More before getting started here. Losing access to your email account can be extremely detrimental.

Schedule “Email Checking” Time

One of the greatest blunders of users who have extremely active inboxes is that they will leave their Gmail, Thunderbird or Postbox open 24/7 and running in the background. Another blunder is the use of notification addons or features that will alert you the minute an email arrives, no matter how trivial that email might be.

how to email

Undeniable fact: frequently checking in on your emails means you can’t dedicate focus to another task. Undeniable fact: if you ever do manage to build focus, notifications will break it in an instant.

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Therefore, you should view your inbox as an activity like any other. Don’t allow it to be an “always on” aspect of your life. Instead, schedule blocks of time – maybe once a day, maybe three times a day – where you check into the inbox, do everything you need, then close it. It may take a while to break the habit but, trust me, your productivity will skyrocket.

Eliminate the Excess

The very first thing you should do when opening your inbox is to quickly skim it and delete every email that doesn’t seem important. Think of yourself as a sculptor with a huge block of fresh marble. Before you start on the real work, you need to hack away in broad strokes and get rid of the excess.

email tips

Imagine checking in and finding 350 emails waiting for a response. All it takes is five minutes – yes, really! – to skim through and click the checkboxes next to emails that hold no importance. When you’ve gotten through the bulk of it, click on Delete to erase all of those checked emails. Now you only need to respond to 50 and that’s a big psychological boost.

Read and Reply Immediately

Do you often open up an email, see that you need to do something, but leave it for another day? This can be a risky habit. What if you forget about it? What if you lose the email somehow? What if you need to respond sooner than you think you need to?

Better to do it all immediately. It prevents the buildup of “I still need to answer that email” thoughts that will nag away at you until you finally get around to it. It reduces the chance that you forget about an important email. It keeps your clients, friends, and business contacts happy because you reply with such punctuality. As a bonus, you’ll have a big load off your mind.

With a clean and empty inbox that isn’t cluttered with messages to which you need to return, you can more easily implement the earlier point of only checking email at scheduled times. If you really don’t want to read and reply immediately, then at least look into an email reminder addon Add Scheduling, Tracking & Reminders to Gmail With This Fantastic Add-on Add Scheduling, Tracking & Reminders to Gmail With This Fantastic Add-on Let’s face it, Gmail is pretty much perfect. It’s not a coincidence that it’s now one of the most popular email providers, at least for those who prefer a Web interface. There are, however, several... Read More .

Canned Responses

Canned responses is an amazing feature that has become something of a standard in all of the top email services and clients. Basically, a canned response is a template reply that you can build ahead of time and use with a single click. These are great when you find yourself typing the same reply over and over, such as when people frequently send questions about a particular topic.

email tips

You can enable Canned Responses in Gmail by toggling it in the Labs section of the settings. Yaara has written an instructional post on how to get started with Canned Responses in Gmail Email Faster & Better With Canned Responses Email Faster & Better With Canned Responses Don’t have time to cook lunch? No problem, grab a can. Need some camping chow that won’t go bad? Easy, get some canned food. Tired of typing the same email replies? Try canned emails! Think... Read More .

Keep It Brief

The best way to cut down on the time that email sucks away from you: spend less time writing replies. Of course, don’t sacrifice proper business or personal etiquette by writing terse responses, but you also don’t need to write 5-10 paragraphs for every email you send. Email is less formal than traditional letters!

Identify the main message you want to get across, then try to get it to the recipient in one to three paragraphs maximum. You know how you’re having such a hard time slogging through so many emails? Well, the recipient is probably facing the same problem. Not only does shortening your emails save on your time, it saves their time as well, and they’ll be grateful for it.

Use Filters to Organize

Utilizing the power of filters can revolutionize your email workflow. In essence, a filter looks at every incoming email and, if it meets the criteria of the filter, performs an action on it. This action could be moving the email to a certain folder or setting a particular label. The criteria of a filter can include who the sender is, the subject of the email, the body content, etc.

how to email

Filters are a fantastic method of keeping your inbox organized. Do you receive a lot of newsletter updates from retail chains, notifications from social media, or electronic bills? Filters can keep those emails separate from your inbox, drastically cutting down on the amount of emails you need to slog through. Plus, there’s less of a chance that you’ll delete one of those accidentally.

Check out Craig’s post on how to set up and use Gmail filters 5 Gmail Filters to Help Prioritize & Organize Your Inbox 5 Gmail Filters to Help Prioritize & Organize Your Inbox What filters should each and every person have in their arsenal so that their inbox is as orderly as mine? I'm here to help you get started in setting up your first five filters, or... Read More .

Conclusion

Email is a simple technology but there are advanced ways to go about it. The most important thing about being an email pro is to identify where most of your time is being spent and find ways to cut down on that time. Hopefully the tips outlined above and a few more email efficiency tips 10 Tips To Help You Email More Efficiently 10 Tips To Help You Email More Efficiently The best advice I have heard about email and email productivity is – don’t answer emails first thing in the morning. It is a bit paradoxical but true that email and productivity are at loggerheads... Read More we had covered earlier will help you to see where your time is sinking and how to combat that inefficiency.

What about you? Do you have any tricks or routines that you use to maximize your email productivity? Please share them in the comments!

Image Credits: Email Icon Via Shutterstock, Time Clock Via Shutterstock, Hammer and Chisel Via Shutterstock

  1. Sally Canzoneri
    June 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    I have a bunch of Gmail filters, and use the priority inbox; I’ve also set up as separate account for newsletters that I want to get, but don’t want to look at every time I open my mail. Still Gmail is seeming stiff & clunky to me. I’ve been using Alto, a e mail handler that is being developed by AOL. It is still in beta, and you need an invitation to use it (from http://www.altomail.com ); but I like it a lot. Rather than having filters, Alto sorts your incoming mail into “stacks” like virtual piles of paper on your desk. I find this more intuative, and it is much easier to get and glance through mail in stacks that it is to retreve mail from folders where I’ve had gmail filters file it. Alto also has a feature that lets you “snooze”e mails you don’t want to deal with immediately; basically, you tell Alto to hide these emails for however many days you want, and then they reappear at the top of your inbox. I don’t know if there are plans for an app, but it’s easy to access the site on the web. You can bring email accounts from AOL, Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, or “other” into your Alto account.

    Another nice feature of Alto, is that you can put a number of email addresses into your account, and see them all on one page. You can look at a consolidated inbox, or separate inboxes for each address; the stacks are consolidated for all the addresses. Finally, the graphics on Alto are nice to look at.

    • Cele Deemer
      June 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      Sally, I have a question about Alto - if I try it, but don't like it, is it easy to revert back to my 'old' yahoo mail?

  2. sonalkhodiyar
    June 6, 2013 at 3:21 am

    Just what we know, and exactly what we do not follow.

  3. null
    June 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Yep, been doin' these for years. Really works, too. I'm especially fond of filtering inbound mail as it allows me to automatically shunt recurring newsletters and trade journals out of the inbox and into their own dedicated folders for later review at my convenience.

  4. Stephanie Staker
    June 4, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Hi, again, I am slowly but surely figuring this but I am stuck. You reference the "how to set up filters..." article that was written about 2 years ago. Where I am stuck is how do you make the labels in color? The way it is now, the label is the same color and not readily seen. Any help here? Thanks in advance.

    • Joel Lee
      June 6, 2013 at 2:50 am

      If you hover over the labels in Gmail, there should be a dropdown box on the right side (of the label itself). Click it and you should be able to choose to change the label's color.

      Here's a screenshot of what it looks like: http://puu.sh/39luW.png

      • Stephanie Staker
        June 7, 2013 at 6:52 am

        Yep, I found it! Thank you for your help.

  5. Stephanie Staker
    June 4, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Thank you, Joel, for these tips! I am also going to read the article on setting up filters in Gmail. I had "message rules" in Thunderbird but since all the upgrades, the rules no longer work and all my emails go in the Inbox. I had it set up where certain Yahoo group emails would go to the appropriate group folder. Same things with personal emails from family and friends. The rules are still there but still all goes to the Inbox. I'll see if there is something more I need to do to make it work like it used to. It was such a time-saver.

    • Joel Lee
      June 6, 2013 at 2:47 am

      You're welcome. Hopefully the filters work well for you! (They do for me, haha.)

  6. Michael G. Michlein
    June 4, 2013 at 3:18 am

    Loved it. Made me think about how I am spending my time and for what purpose.

  7. James Columbro
    June 4, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Interactive mind numbing but Grabs you that you'll check it every day!

  8. Jiranz
    June 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I run my business by email so it has to be "always on". As a result I can get up to about 30,000 emails per month mostly spam. Problem with Gmail et al is that it filters an occasional wanted email into spam which on one occasion was an order for $30,000 which was in jeopardy. Spam Assassin etc is also not foolproof and can have issues with some Chinese or Asian language characters so I must see all emails without exception which means seeing a lot of spam. For my desktop pc setup I found a workable solution as follows:

    I have filters setup on Gmail etc to not send anything to their Spam and to retain all messages in Gmail inboxes. I then use Thunderbird as my email client in pop3 mode to retrieve all emails from all accounts.In conjunction with specific message filters and add-on. By use of these I can keep all Gmail accounts empty and safe from being hacked and sort any volume of incoming emails in seconds literally without having to read or check every spam email.

    Thunderbird Message Filters setup
    1) "Trash Bypass" - Match all of the following - From,To,Cc or Bcc - list of doesnt contain - Move Message to - Trash on local Folders
    2) "Move to Trash" - Match any of the following - list of contains - Move Message to - Trash on Local Folders
    3) "Move to Archives" - Match all messages - Move Message to - Archives on Local Folders

    Thunderbird Add-On -
    Remove Duplicate Messages (Alternate) 0.3.8b
    Options - General Settings = Review search results before deletion - Default action for duplicate message - Delete permanently
    Options Message Comparison = Compare addresses stripped and sorted - Subject - Time Comparison Resolution = Day
    To be applied exclusively on Trash Folder

    In ther add-on window you can scroll down and eye-scan the full list of emails in Trash by subject in seconds. For the most part they will appear sorted in obvious spam blocks Any which may be of interest you can check just by single click but mostly you can choose to delete all. This will leave only those few emails remaining in Thunderbird's Trash which are not duplicates that might be genuine which you can then quickly check and drag into archives to keep or possibly incorporate into the other filters or create a special filter for. i have special category filters between the three basics above)

    I search my single Archives for all message threads by using Thunderbird Save Searches feature and organise saved searches in a folder system by relevant search criteria as shortcuts.

    New messages which are read but have to be processed later I tag with a color so i can see them at a glance and do not forget about them..

    I do not have anything in default system folders (never use Thunderbird Inbox for example) for the reason that in case of a Windows crash nothing is lost. I arrange my archives folders by years and typically can have 4gb - 8gb per annual file. Some emails relate to 7 year warranties so I have to keep them all indefinitely as a record. Been using this system for many years. I do routine backups.

    I also filter other peoples messages to their folders. Some prefer to use imap with their phones and laptops but I still get to check every single email that is sent to us whether spam or genuine which is important to us to be able to achieve.

    • Joel Lee
      June 6, 2013 at 2:46 am

      Wow. That was incredibly in-depth for a comment and it gave me some awesome insight into your own process. I don't know if I could handle 30,000 emails a month, especially if those emails could potentially be worth thousands of dollars. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Mark lloyd
    June 3, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    The best tools I have found allows me to whittle my inbox down to almost nothing while at the same time allowing to keep a good handle on all my tasks. That tool is ActiveInBox (http://www.activeinboxhq.com).

    As I work through my inbox each morning it's easy to mark each email as actionable, add a label, a deadline or delete. No more scrolling or searching to find that task that's hidden in all those emails. It is right there in my action file!

    • Joel Lee
      June 6, 2013 at 2:45 am

      Pretty cool tool! I'll have to see if I'd actually use it but on first glance it looks useful. Thanks for sharing.

  10. null
    June 3, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    One of the best ways to cut the amount of email you receive is to unsubscribe. At times you need to give your email to a group or business for information or an order but when that is completed, you no longer need their emails. Simply scroll to the bottom of the message and find "unsubscribe" and click.

    • Daniel J. Karas
      June 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Unfortunately, unethical spammers (are there really ethical ones?) will unsubscribe you, then add your address to other spam lists, often with the same content or message. This also renders filters inoperable. I've seen identical spam mails with up to six different throwaway domain names (available as cheap as $3 per), a better solution is to use a throwaway email address from another service for orders, signups & verifications. You will be amazed at the quantity of junk received there, with little or no activity on your part.

      • Joel Lee
        June 6, 2013 at 2:44 am

        Yeah, I've done my fair share of unsubscribing only to be stealth-added to other lists... It's pretty annoying. Good advice!

  11. Paul G. Williams
    June 3, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Very useful. I will put some of these suggestions to use.

  12. Tim
    June 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I found it ironic that an email about managing email priorities and filtering out interruptions should arrive in my Outlook inbox flagged as "high importantance", which of course is the basis of one of my alerts to help me avoid missing something truly urgent.

  13. Max
    June 2, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Slightly unrelated, but I've found that the simpler the email client is, the faster you can breeze through your emails. Sparrow WAS an excellent example of this, but sadly it's not being developed on anymore.

  14. MahfoudSAM
    June 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks for the article, I've actually learned some email technics while organizing a local event (I was just obliged because of networking, sponsorship ...)

    • Joel Lee
      June 6, 2013 at 2:43 am

      Hands-on experience is always the best!

  15. rajat
    June 2, 2013 at 12:12 am

    can also use rightinbox to auto schedule e mails or reminders from e mails . or use lettermelater.com to send you an attachment right when you need it most

    • Joel Lee
      June 6, 2013 at 2:42 am

      I have another email-related article coming out in the coming weeks and RightInbox is included in there. It's great. Thanks for mentioning it. :)

  16. Alan Wade
    June 1, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    I have my email notifier check my mail every ten minutes, from there I quickly decide what is going to be deleted and what is going to be read!

  17. Allyson L
    June 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    The canned response is a great idea - will look into that.

    I had been struggling to be efficient with gmail and emails. Recently I created two new labels: Needs Response, and Waiting on Reply - using fairly strident colours. This has turned out to simplify nearly everything. If I can't remember names or subjects, all I have to do is click on my Needs Response label, and up pops everything I had nearly forgotten. And Waiting on Reply either turns into something confirmed or gets deleted.

  18. Eian Ampoloquio
    June 1, 2013 at 10:59 am

    I agree! SPAMS are annoying. Good thing GMail has few of it unlike YahooMail.. :-\

  19. macwitty
    June 1, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Good tips - hope some of my friends read them. If they do not get an answer I have them either on phone or twitter asking about an answer. Saying that - I have sat up filter work work, networking, friends... and it help to to not see all email when checking for work related mail

  20. Chip White
    June 1, 2013 at 2:55 am

    I hate spam

  21. dragonmouth
    May 31, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Do you want to improve your productivity? Change you attitude towards your email. Answering email is a work task as much any other, therefore it should be given the same attention. You claim that an arriving email breaks your focus. So does answering the phone, going to endless meetings, going to the bathroom, answering co-workers questions. Besides, if you have bosses like mine, they expect an answer to their email yesterday, if not sooner. If you get 350 emails a day and you are able to reduce it to only 50, you do not have your filtering set up correctly, most likely you do not filter out spam before it hits your Inbox.

    For me, email is a welcome break from the drudgery of coding and debugging. Studies have shown that focusing too much and too long on a single task reduces productivity. One needs to break up the single-minded monotony. Focusing on different tasks clears out one's "mental buffers".

    • Joel Lee
      June 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      I think there's a world of difference between an intended break (premeditated) and an unintended break (interruptions). Businesses may need to deal with thousands of non-spam emails a day, which translates to one or more emails per minute. But even for a regular power user, having email come in at a rate of one every five or ten minutes can be jarring.

  22. Catherine M
    May 31, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    OK, I have set up my filters, eliminated the don't really need stuff, and have set up a time limit. Now I have time to spend on facebook - hahaha

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