How To Email Like A Pro

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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 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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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 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

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Comments (33)
  • Sally Canzoneri

    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

      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?

  • sonalkhodiyar

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

  • null

    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.

  • Stephanie Staker

    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

      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

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

  • Stephanie Staker

    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

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

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.