Organise Me: Email Inbox-ification

Inbox-ification By Andy (Andrea) McArthur

The average business user spends more than two hours a day dealing with email. That's an average of 48 to 75 emails per day (some are even receiving a whole lot more). Source

No more email Inbox-ification it's time to cut your email traffic, tidy up your inbox and deal with your email in a more efficient and streamlined manner. This week try allocating some time to review your email processes, review your email clients capabilities and also review your email brand (address name and signature).

No matter what email client you are using, at the bare minimum you should be able to label, filter and store emails which will ultimately lead to a happier inbox (when put into practise). Recently I discussed with a few freelancers which platform they prefer to use for email and Gmail has repeatedly come up as the webmail server of choice. It seems that there is a lot of Gmail love in the air as it does label, filter, store and search emails extremely well. You can also use your email through Google Apps which allows you to look professional with a email address.

Note: As your business grows it is definitely time to again reassess your email needs and possibly move away from webmail servers, do you need to think about hosting your own emails in-house with systems such as Kerio a very secure option, or using a third-party email-hosting provider which would probably be hosted alongside your website.

It’s vital to have your email backed up in multiple locations so when a server goes down you don't lose your information life line and you can still continue to operate. I never really understood IMAP and POP forwarding but setting up IMAP is an essential part of email. IMAP is described as "what allows you to download messages from servers onto your computer so you can access your mail with a program like Microsoft Outlook or Mac Mail, even when you aren't connected to the Internet." IMAP also provides a better method to access your mail from multiple devices. You can check your email at work, on your mobile, at home and new mail is accessible from any device at any time. If using Gmail there is a lot of support to use IMAP and using both an email client on your desktop and the Gmail webmail server takes the scariness out of backup. See Gmail IMAP help.

Previously I thought that I had my email system nailed by moving emails into folders. However, because I am a folder addict, in the past my emails were just getting lost among the many, many folders that I had created (utilising Search was the only way to effectively find emails). A suggestion would be to create a main category to which you add sub folders if needed, I must say this is working a lot better for me. Also don't forget you can you simply use Gmails coloured labels or use the Archive filter as an option rather than folders. I still prefer to leave emails that need actioning in my email Inbox and the ones which I have actioned move them into a folder out of sight but not out of reach. Similar to the 4D model: 1. Delete it, 2. Do it, 3. Delegate it or 4. Defer it.

Aim for a Zero Inbox by setting up new filters and sorting your email out. You can organise emails from certain senders (or on certain topics) to automatically be tagged with a coloured label or filtered to a folder simply by choosing "Filter messages like this" from the "More" drop-down menu. Also many email clients (including Gmail) will allow you to append your address name and filter the new name with an automatic label or folder. Any emails from a subscription might be given the new email address or an amended email address of See more information on: LabelsFilters and Appending email addresses.

A few extra tips for the road:

  • Utilise the tools that come with Gmail such as keyboard shortcuts to help save you time and Labs which are experimental features and will get you using your email just the way you like it. See more information on: ShortcutsLabs.
  • Don't forget to setup your Junk email use filters to catch the nasties and get them out of your email life.
  • Declutter regularly and only keep what you need.

Lastly my number one tip is to limit email checking (if you aren't expecting an urgent email). In terms of productivity we lose valuable time constantly checking our emails. It has even been recorded that we lose as much as 15 minutes every time we move from one project to another. In order to eliminate this time waster limit yourself to two/three email checks a day, morning, noon and 4pm, at these times schedule uninterrupted time to process and organise your email. Oh and don't forget to turn your email notification sounds off.

What are your top tips for managing email. Tell us by adding your comment below.

 Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual and a soft spot for organisation. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. Andrea works as a freelance graphic designer in Brisbane by day and lectures in graphic design by night. You will find her sharing design related goodness via @andyjane_mc