Career

5 easy ways to manage your email inbox

If you feel like you're constantly buried in emails at work and are not getting anything done, here's how to claim your working day back.

You don't have to let your email inbox dictate your working day.
It's Monday morning. You've just settled down at your work station with your first coffee of the day and you're feeling fresh and ready for the week ahead - then you open your email inbox and the flood begins. Before you know it, half your morning has disappeared.
Today's work environment thrives on email exchanges. They are a quick and efficient way of communicating with colleagues and associates - we exchange 112.5 billion business emails a day around the world, a recent study found.
But experts are starting to question whether they're saving us time, or causing us to waste more in the long run.
A Carleton University study found that we spend up to one third of our day reading or responding to emails, and around 30 per cent of those emails are not urgent.
When you’re performing any task at work and a new email catches your eye, it takes an average of 64 seconds to get your concentration back, scientists say. Multiply that by however many emails you’re receiving each day, and some experts suggest you could be losing eight and a half hours a week just being distracted between tasks.
Meanwhile a Gallup study found that when people are interrupted at work, it takes them about 23 minutes to get back on task.
That constant feeling that you’re not getting anything done, or don't have enough time in your work day, can lead to feelings of stress and a lack of sleep.
We're also responding to work emails when we're at home more often than ever before - when are we ever switching off?
If you want to take back control of your working day, here are our top tips on how to manage your email inbox effectively:

1. Block off time to disconnect

Block off time in your calendar when you won't be checking or responding to emails, and remind your colleagues that you’re unavailable during those hours.
You could even schedule an 'out of office' response.
Automated replies used to be the domain of companies warning that high email traffic might mean a slow response, but it makes sense for anyone who feels bogged down by the amount of emails they receive to do it too.
At first glance, the ‘I cannot respond right now’ message might throw people a little. But it does remind everyone that we aren’t always at their beck and call.
And if you regularly receive emails from colleagues or work associates after hours, you might also want to consider setting up a permanent OOO response from 6pm or 7pm each evening. No one wants to be receiving work emails once they're home with their families.

2. Dedicate time to respond to emails

In the same vein as above, set aside time each day for responding to emails. You could try 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in afternoon, for example.

3. Prioritise what needs responding to

Not everything needs a response straight away. Prioritise your inbox into what needs to be dealt with right now, what can wait, or what would be better dealt with by having a conversation (to avoid a series of back and forward emails seeking clarity.)

4. Write your emails effectively

We can waste time sending emails that lack all of the information the recipient needs. Use the subject line to clearly define what your email is about. Make sure you include all of the information you need to convey. And if you're asking for help, define when you need a response by.
End with 'thanks' or 'thanks in advance' - this gets a better response rate than 'best' according to Boomerang, an email productivity app.

5. Know when an email isn't enough

Above all, recognise that email isn't everything. The people who don’t let email run their lives understand that it’s just one tool of communication.
When it comes to sensitive conversations, face-to-face ensures that there’s less of a chance for misunderstandings. Likewise, a quick phone call can take care of all those questions you have about the finer details, and add clarity.