Long gone are the days of “letter mountains” where the only reasonable way to cut through the clutter was paper shredding. Digital has taken over practically all forms of communication – funneling everything into one place: our inbox.
Between social media updates, work correspondence, and personal emails, we’re getting a larger and larger influx of emails daily. How can you tame the disorder of the typical Gmail inbox in 2013? The following five tips should get you started:
Maybe you’re still getting campus news emails years after graduating or maybe you forgot to say no to a company’s newsletter when making a purchase. Either way, a lot of us are subscribed to newsletters and ads that do not interest us. Think of the time you’d save if you never had to see this junk again! Most of these emails contain unsubscribe links near the bottom of the page. If they don’t, you always have Gmail’s “Mark as Spam” feature.
2. Take advantage of customizable tabs.
While changes to tools we use so frequently, such as Gmail, often seem aggravating at first, the new tabs in Gmail can be quite useful in un-cluttering your inbox. With tabs like “social,” you’ll never have to sift through Facebook updates to find work emails or bank statements again!
And, since these tabs are optional, you can always revert your inbox to its previous settings. You really have nothing to lose.
Also, consider integrating apps into your workflow to keep files out of your inbox and in the cloud.
3. Utilize stars and folders.
Maybe you received an important email this morning that you need to set aside until you have time for it. Rather than letting it get lost in the abyss of your inbox, star it! Then, regularly check your starred mail by clicking “starred” under “more” on the left side of the screen. Once an email is taken care of, you can un-star it.
Alternatively, create your own customized folders for important messages. For companies and practices like real estate law, organizing files, transcripts, records, and documents is essentially the glue that holds everything together. If you get a particularly large number of important emails, creating folders that you regularly check are a good alternative to stars. And if you really want to be sure you’ll look back at an email, mark it as unread.
4. Create a designated “email time.”
In the 21st Century it’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly checking your email 24/7. Many of us would start to panic if we were “disconnected” from our email for only several hours. Life as an email addict, while it may seem efficient on the surface, is a very inefficient lifestyle. You can never get big projects done without constantly taking breaks to check your email, even when you have no important messages waiting for you the majority of the time! Organize your routine so you have one or several designated times during the day when you check your email and type up any necessary responses.
5. Consider other communication methods.
Remember the phone’s original purpose: making calls! While email is perhaps a more stress-free method of communication, think of all that the information that is lost and the misunderstandings that can arise when your recipient can’t hear the tone of your voice!
Think about companies that have recently emerged over the past 10-15 years to fuel the digital world. These practices are new and confusing to people who’ve grown up working without all the digital interference. A company offering SEO cannot explain everything in a few emails or on a PDF. They must make calls to educate new and/or foreign organizations.
And when you need a response right away, a 20 message email conversation is much less efficient than a 10 minute phone call or IM conversation.