One of the questions I get most often is, “How do you read all your email?” With multiple email accounts, many stakeholders and customers, and working in a global enterprise I get dozens of emails daily. Despite the fact that I believe email is dead–Professional Social Networks are the future–we all do a lot of business on email. If you’ve got tips and tricks, why not share it with the community in the comments section below?
It is rare for me to leave my desk at the end of the day with unread emails, here’s how I do it:
1. I don’t read every email. Sort on the subject, delete emails that look like duplicates, “reply to alls”, and office spam.
2. In Outlook, use Conditional Formatting to color code important senders. Read those first. My boss and other general officers and senior (“C-suite”) are red, key peers are blue, and headquarters’ key staff are green. Those emails then stand out and I can read them first.
3. In Outlook, use Rules to sort emails into sub-folders. There are emails you get regularly you want to get to, but don’t need cluttering your inbox: notifications, news, appointment requests, calendar invites, etc. Create Rules to dump those emails into a subfolder. You’ll see the unread emails and can get to them in the appropriate time. For example, I receive notifications for electronic staffing regularly–those electronic memos requiring my attention (performance reports, awards, approval requests, etc) go into my “Staffing” subfolder, and when I see an unread email in those folders I know I’ve got something to do.
4. In GMail, use Filters and Categories to sort email. You can use the Filters and Categories to sort email so only the most important emails are in my Primary box. Don’t underestimate the Skip the Inbox and Archive functions!
5. Delete, Delete, Delete. I subscribe to a lot of newsletters and the like–those all go into a single folder in GMail. Since many of those are daily emails, if I’m unable to read them in a few days they’re usually out of date anyway. Many I’ll save and read, but if something is unread in my Inbox for more than a few days and I don’t consciously leave it unread for some reason, it gets deleted.
6. Unsubscribe. If you find yourself deleting more emails you’ve subscribed to than reading it–hit the “unsubscribe” button.
There’s plenty of hacks and tips out there as well, here’s a survey of some of the best:
Lifehacker: Control Your Email
Lifehacker: Hack Your Email 99 Ways
Lifehacker: Become a GMail Master
PCWorld: 10 Tips for Mastering Outlook 2013
Youtube: Outlook 2013 Tips and Tricks (video)
The Atlantic: Inbox Zero vs Inbox 5,000
Mashable: 5 Tricks to Finally Achieve Inbox Zero
Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.