Emails are a wonderfully useful solution, and quite possibly one of the most commonly used ones in the workplace today. However, not everyone is using every capability that their email solutions offer - and it has led to a lot of time being wasted in the workplace. For this week’s tip, we’ll review how to help cut back on the time spent organizing your emails.
Adobe releases an Email Usage Study each year, and in July 2019, their study returned some striking results. According to the responses they received, adults spend about five hours per day checking their email. This is generally split up between their personal accounts - with two hours spent - and their work accounts - which are used for three.
While this survey only collected responses from a total of 1002 people, making it less statistically significant than would be ideal, it still reveals some telling trends...namely, how exactly people are spending their time - more specifically, 21 percent of the entire day. For reference, the recommended period of sleep that we are supposed to receive is 30 percent.
That’s a pretty significant chunk of time spent checking email. Fortunately, email platforms are now equipped with features that help users sort through their messages.
Organization Using Filters and Rules
It isn’t unheard of for an email inbox to suddenly contain emails that number in the hundreds or even thousands, which makes the thought of finding one specific email daunting. However, email clients enable you to sort through all the mess.
Google’s email client provides users with a few different ways to sort their emails. For starters, a user can have their emails automatically split within their inbox into any of five distinct, set categorizes:
While these categories can’t be edited or added upon, you don’t necessarily have to use all of them. Under Settings, navigate to the Inbox tab, and select the Default Inbox type. You can select which ones you want to use under Categories, and once you Save Changes, your emails should start to sort themselves into these categories.
You can also set up Labels and Filters in Gmail to assist you in organizing your emails. Each incoming email is compared to the criteria dictated by the filter, and if it matches, you can have a particular label applied - or any of various other actions.
Keep in mind that new filters won’t be applied to the emails already in your inbox unless you specifically instruct Gmail to do so when creating them.
To create a filter, access your Settings, and go to the Filters and Blocked Addresses tab. Click Create a new filter, and you will be presented with the many rules your filter could follow. You also have the option to base a filter upon a message you have already gotten. Once you are satisfied, click Continue to then specify what you want done with the messages that match the filter’s criteria. You can even create a new label to apply to matching messages by selecting Apply the label.
This will sort your messages out in the sidebar menu, allowing you to view specific sets of messages rather than one continuing mass. While this process can take some time, it will help save a lot of time later on.
Outlook allows you to create Categories and Rules to sort your emails among them. In Settings, under General, you have the ability to edit the Categories that your emails are sorted amongst. As these categories are assigned a color by default, it is likely most helpful to delete them and replace them with ones that do what you need them to do.
To create your Rules, you will again need to access your Settings, this time navigating to Mail. You should see the option to set Rules, and once accessed, the opportunity to Add new rule. From there, you can give your rule a name that makes it clear what it does, as well as Add a condition that will activate the rule. Then Add an action (or even a few) to direct Outlook in how this message should be handled. You can even add exceptions, so if you want any emails marked URGENT to be filed a certain way - but one of your coworkers tends to label EVERYTHING they send as such - you can have Outlook skip this rule if an email is coming from them.
When all is said and done, email can be an extremely useful collaboration tool - but it can just as easily become a distracting mess if it isn’t handled properly. Creating these rules and conditions can help you keep them more organized… allowing you to be more productive.
Are there any other common processes that you’d like some tips to using? Let us know in the comments!