6 Tips for Maximizing Productivity with Your Email Communications

Email has become one of the most prevalent forms of communication today; after all, who can argue with the prospect of free letters sent and received instantaneously? With its prevalence, however, comes a cost: becoming overwhelmed with the volume. For those of you in executive and leadership positions, you are especially familiar with this concept. Your inbox can become unmanageable if not maintained constantly.

When your inbox reaches that point, you will find that communication with colleagues and customers begins to suffer because important items are likely to get overlooked. The solution is to find ways of maximizing your productivity with email communications so that you reduce the clutter in your inbox, find the important items quickly, establish a good filing system, and accomplish the purpose of your communications more effectively and efficiently. Here are some useful tips to that end.

  1. Use tags and filters on the front end. A major step toward reducing clutter in your inbox is to sort the less important items from the important ones the moment they arrive. Set up rules, tags, and filters that will automatically move certain items to designated folders or highlight items of special importance. For example, that daily inspirational quote you’ve subscribed to or the e-blast with special deals from your favorite store can easily sit in their own folder, out of the way until you have a few minutes of down time to glance at them. Certain email clients like Gmail have also designated separate sections of the inbox itself that will make intelligent guesses about where to put incoming emails, and they also give you the ability to customize the rules for this selection process.
  2. Filter by “Unsubscribe.” Most of us are subscribed to far too much drip email marketing, whether they are blogs, newsletters, e-blasts, or other campaigns. While most of them are probably useful, several others are doing nothing but cluttering your inbox. I recommend that you periodically run a brief inventory of the email marketing you are subscribed to by filtering your inbox for the word “Unsubscribe” that is a required link at the bottom of every campaign in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act. Glance over all the emails that populate and quickly unsubscribe from any that are just taking up valuable space.
  3. Have a good filing system in place. The few moments of time that it takes to file an email is worth it for the order it will bring to your inbox, as well as the ability to quickly retrieve it if needed again. Find a logical system of organization that works for you, and stick to it regularly. You will be amazed at the peace of mind you receive when you are staring at an empty inbox at the end of the day!
  4. Change the subject lines of your emails when the topic changes. Email threads tend to stretch out endlessly, thanks to the very handy Reply or Reply All buttons. The topic of conversation can ramble and rabbit trail to the point that the subject line following the Re: is no longer remotely connected to the content of the emails. This causes a lot of difficulty when later trying to locate a specific email in the chain, as well as staying on track with the original email’s purpose. Be intentional about changing that subject line to reflect the content of each reply you send.
  5. Keep your emails to a single topic whenever possible. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that moment of exasperation when we sent an email asking for two or more bits of unrelated information and the reply only contained the answer to one of the questions. We can reduce or eliminate this frustration by discussing only one major topic per email. There can be more than one question related to that one topic, but as long as it stays in that overall category, you have a much better chance of receiving the comprehensive reply you were hoping for. This also allows you to more easily title the subject of your email, relating back to the previous tip.
  6. Write actionable, attention-grabbing subject lines. If the purpose of your email is to get a certain response, then stating that purpose from the beginning puts your recipients in that frame of mind. For example, “Sign up for company picnic today!” or “Action Steps from Marketing Meeting 04/03—Complete by Friday at noon” can be acted upon very specifically, as opposed to subject lines like “Company picnic on Saturday—We hope you can join us!” or “Marketing Meeting Minutes 04/03.”

Just applying one of these tips at a time will have an effect on the efficiency of your email communication. The result will be a clutter free inbox, easy retrieval of past emails, and quicker responses to your requests—all of which contribute to less stress in your work life!

What are some of your personal favorite tips for more effective email communications?