Managing your emails is just as much about managing your time and focus as anything. So how can you rise above the hundreds of emails laying unanswered in your inbox?1 Remember that email is a communication tool
A guiding project management skill is to remember that email is just one tool in your communication toolbox. Lots of people use and most of us are very familiar and comfortable with using email to do everything from booking a trip to communicating memos. Before you send an email, consider whether email is the right tool to use.2 Language and brevity
The other things about email is that senders have a habit of using language which is emotional and emails can go on for several paragraphs when really, they don’t need to.
However, there needs to be balance. Whilst shorter emails work, sometimes the lack of emotive language can make the sender seem rude or detached. For example, answering a simple ‘no’ can seem rude or simply responding ‘approved’.
We need to remember that people interpret things in different ways and so again, it comes down to asking if email is the right tool to use. A phone conversation a resolve many issues, whereas an email can simply create more.3 Spend time constructing your email message
If you are using email as the main communication tool, then you need to spend time constructing emails to ensure they are a valuable part of the process.
If you follow a ‘formula’, it can help prevent misunderstanding and so on. Start well with a courteous opening and don’t forget that the subject line is important too. Don’t mark it as urgent unless it is really urgent.
Making clear requests as part of your email is crucial too. At the end of a long email, recap your main points including any actions you are asking specific people to complete and by when.4 Using the features of email better
No matter what email program you are using, the likelihood is that you are not using it to its full advantage. For example, with Gmail, you can set reminders so emails sent to you that contain dates can be flagged up as possibly needing attention.
Making use of the important tab also helps to separate the emails that are a priority and others that can be left until another time. Other email programs have similar features and there are apps too, such as SaneBox that enhance email as a communication tool but also give you more features to manage emails better.5 Be methodical
Emails swallow time – and lots of it, if you let it. What happens is that we get drawn into email conversations and allow the ensuing discussion to push other, more important things out of focus.
Taking a methodical approach is key, as is understanding that firing off a reactive response can make even more work for yourself. Responding within three to five working days for non-urgent work is an acceptable timeframe.