The first email was sent in 1972 by a man named Ray Tomlinson. Since Tomlinson's world-changing invention, business officials everywhere have been sculpting their routine around their email's inbox. From relaying important information to staying in touch with family and friends, people check their email, on average, roughly 15 times per day -- according to the University of British Columbia. If you work around a computer, you might as well add a zero to the end of that average!
If you work in a competitive or draining field, you know that time is money. Wasting your time refreshing your inbox isn't a great usage of your day. However, you can't simply ignore your inbox in favor of other tasks. Is there a practical solution to this conundrum? We sure think so. As it turns out, there are a few simple ways to make the most out of your day without sacrificing email upkeep.
Keep on reading to learn five mental tricks that will help you improve your email management -- or, if you'd like a more in-depth guide on email management, read here!
Trick #1 — Check Your Email on a Schedule
If you have worked around the computer long enough, you will likely get in the habit of starting your day by checking your email. After all, you never know what could have been sent to you overnight. While reading your email is a fantastic way to start an official workday, this isn't where most people get into trouble. Instead, trouble begins to crop up when we go back to our email dozens of times throughout the afternoon. To get past this time-consuming hurdle, all you need to do is check your email THREE times per day!
According to a study hosted by the Washington Post, the average person will consume more than 47,000 hours throughout their career by simply checking and responding to emails. This number was found after analyzing 1,000 middle class, white-collar workers during a study performed by Adobe. If you work in a field that is busier than average, your career hours checking email can skyrocket even more!
By limiting your inbox browsing to just three times per day, you are staking a claim on your time while prioritizing work that needs to be done. There are no hard-and-fast rules as to when these email breaks should come, as only you know your career's requirements. However, checking your email in the morning, after lunch, and before leaving for the day seems to cover the bases pretty well. The biggest hurdle for most individuals adopting this trick is finding the resolve to avoid clicking their email out of habit. Stay strong, your time clock will thank you!
Trick #2 — Use Unroll.me to Mass Unsubscribe From Spam Lists
Is there any word in the internet dictionary more despicable than 'spam'? Email spam has been a prolific problem almost since the dawn of the internet. While Tomlinson invented the web in 1972, the first reported case of email spam would not be far behind! In 1978, users on ARPANET were hit with their first spam messages. Nowadays, your spam inbox likely gets dozens of notifications per day. Spam is most problematic when it seeps into your primary inbox, thus disrupting your workflow before eventually causing real problems. If you are looking to say goodbye to subscription-related spam, you'll want to turn to Unroll.me.
Inbox overload is a very real problem in today's digitally-driven climate. If you are being inundated with spam emails, your address might have ended up on a subscription list somewhere. Don't worry, you won't have to live with these messages filling your inbox forever. Unroll.me offers a variety of effective features that will make it easier for you to scroll through your inbox including:
- Mass Unsubscribe — If your inbox is being filled with spam driven by a subscription list, Unroll.me can put a quick end to the problem. After signing up for an account, all you need to do is swipe to remove your email address from the offending mailing list.
- Organize Content — After weeding spam subscriptions from your inbox, you'll be left with a cleaner and leaner area to work with. Take this opportunity to label emails, create folders, and sort out your remaining content. You'll be shocked by how clean your inbox looks once the spam messages have been removed!
- Protect Your Privacy — Finally, Unroll.me is fantastic for quickly identifying if your email has been compromised on any level. If you find yourself on mailing lists or junk subscription lists, it could mean that someone has sold your data. Use this information to analyze whether you need to make changes to your web security.
Trick #3 — Turn Email Management Into a Game with Habitica
If you are a fierce note taker and a devout list-maker, you likely don't need a game to keep you on track with your work. With that being said, turning frustrating office tasks into a game-like experience can be a great way to make the experience more efficient and enjoyable. If you are looking to make a permanent routine change, having a bit of accountability by way of Habitica isn't the worst thing in the world!
Habitica is a task-completing game that revolves completely around the individual user's desired experience. With custom fields, you can input tasks that need to be accomplished such as Checking Your Inbox, Deleting Spam, Reply to Business Messages. After you've filled out your custom fields and set a 'reward' size, the game begins. Every single day, you have the opportunity to cross off your aforementioned tasks in return for rewards that can be spent decorating your miniature avatar. While we are focusing on email management, you can set daily tasks up for other aspects of your life, as well!
We know what you are thinking, why would using Habitica help finish our work emails for the day? As it turns out, the answer is due to gamification.
- What is gamification? — Gamification is the simple processing of taking game-like experiences and blending them into our day-to-day lives. Consider the punch card that you fill out when you buy a slice of your favorite pizza. This is a form of gamification! You are performing a task (buying pizza) and receiving a reward (punch on your punch card).
- Why is gamification effective? — The simplest reason for the successful implementation of gamification is that it triggers an emotional response within our brain. When we are rewarded for a task that we accomplished, our brains are flooded with positive chemicals that make us feel good.
- Do habits really last? — Habitica is meant to help you build positive habits while 'punishing' you for negative habits. When you don't complete a challenge for the day, your health bar goes down. If you check your email too many times, you can have that trigger an attack on your Habitica avatar's health. Our worldview is molded by cause-and-effect and Habitica has proven effective at building long-lasting positive habits. With that said, you'll still have to stay focused while continually employing your habits to make them stick.
Incorporate positive habit building routines in every facet of your life with Habitica!
Trick #4 — Incorporate Simple 'Best Practices' When Composing an Email
Our final mental tip for getting past an intimidating inbox is all about implementing your Best Practices. As with all of our mental tricks, this specific tip will rely on the field that you are working in. For example, a real estate agent will likely need to reply to emails more often than a freelance marketing professional. With that being said, there are a few core Best Practices that you need to implement to make the most out of your email use.
- Prioritize Your Emails — The 80/20 rule is probably the most important efficiency trick you could learn when it comes to your inbox. What is the 80/20 rule? Simply put, the 80/20 rule demands that 20% of our work be responsible for 80% of our output. More practically speaking, this rule means that you should spend the bulk of your time replying to important emails while letting lesser-important messages fall to the back of the pack. For added organization, consider creating a Reply By ____ Folder with the underscore filled by your deadline.
- Don't Reply to Everything — If you are consistent when it comes to replying to emails, you might not have to be. Sometimes you don't need to reply to emails at all! Replying to a message can drain your mind, waste your time, and kill the flow of your day. Use the aforementioned Priority System to decide if you need to respond at all.
- Keep Replies Simple — If you can't get your message across in an easy-to-scan format, you likely should be on the phone instead of typing. When it comes to email communication, focus on making your interactions brief and to the point. Lose the longwinded introduction, skip the 'Warm Regards', and go straight to key information. The less time you spend writing fluff, the less fluff you get back.
Email management is a technique that everybody will have to master eventually. Use our email management tips and tricks to get started on the right path before incorporating your own ideas!