14 Tips on Improving Your Email Usage

By the small business content developers at  BizLaunch.com.

Love it or hate it, email is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Email makes it easy for you to stay in touch with your contacts, obtain information to help you accomplish tasks and goals, get answers or updates on important (or not so important) projects, stay on top of innovations in your field via newsletters, or even get the best deal on products and services, but sometimes  you might wonder how you can use email more efficiently.

You might be overwhelmed with multiple accounts, too much email, or just so far behind that you don’t know where to start. Or you might be an email champion looking for a few tips to strengthen your email habits. Whatever your email acumen, here are 14 tips to help boost your email productivity.

1. Keep replies short.

Unless you’re an attorney commenting on a complex case, do you really need a lengthy email to convey your information? The fact is that most of us suffer under an avalanche of information. If you have a long and important missive to deliver, put a stamp on it and send it via the postal service.

2. Stay on topic.

You might think you’re being efficient when you mention that other matter in an email about something else, but you might actually be muddying the waters. If you want to check in with a client about a personal situation, but have business to discuss, you may need to write two emails. Then when your correspondent forwards the email, she won’t be forced to edit out personal details and she’ll appreciate that you saved her some effort.

3. Craft better subject lines.

Subject lines are one of the most important parts of an email and one of the most overlooked. They can be used to indicate the topic, actions needed, and important dates. If you’re going to send an email, spend a moment to provide actionable information in the subject line.

4. Use lists.

Lists help you organize your email: blacklists move spam out of your inbox and whitelists make sure that you see the most important email without delay. Both require some management and input from you, but make your inbox that much more manageable.

5. Unsubscribe from mailing lists.

It happens to all of us: you sign up for a newsletter thinking that you’ll read every update and then life happens and you’re subscribed to 30 newsletters that you haven’t the time to read. Be honest with yourself; if you haven’t checked out the promotion or newsletter in a while, maybe they’re not providing as much value as you’d hoped. Unsubscribe if you’re not eagerly anticipating the next dispatch.

6. Turn off automatic notifications.

Social media websites, mobile app bulletins, and automatic updates can all quickly clutter up your inbox. If you’re using the website or app with any frequency, do you really need that duplicate information in your inbox? Turn them off and never look back.

7. Set aside time to deal with email.

Are you like Pavlov’s dog, running to your inbox every time you get pinged with new mail? If so, you’re disrupting your workflow. Unless your job is responding to email only, set a time slot in your schedule for checking email. If your system can handle it, feel free to set it for once a day. If your business is more dynamic, then put it in your schedule more often. Either way, make sure you’re managing your email and your email is not managing you.

8. Create templates for replies for similar queries.

If you find yourself writing the same emails over and over, set up a template to help you manage replies. Be careful with formatting though. It’s always disappointing to receive a communication with different fonts, and it looks unprofessional.

9. Create priorities.

Some emails can be dealt with and deleted while others might require more effort. If you start at the beginning and reply in order, you might find yourself all over the place. Organize your email into things that can be dealt with now, things that need more effort, and long term projects that require substantial exertion.

10. Use the 2 minute rule when replying.

If you can take care of an email in a few moments with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or a simple piece of information, get it off your your to-do list posthaste. Don’t leave it in your inbox thinking you’ll get back to it later, as this is when it will get lost in the shuffle.

11. Use filters or folders to organize email before you see it.

It might seem like a pain to go through and create the rules that will automate some of the organization of your inbox, but consider all the time you spending moving, deleting, and organizing manually. If your email program or service offers the use of filters or folders, take the few hours it will require to set up the system and then let technology work for you.

12. Avoid writing email.

If you can make a call, contact via IM, or send a text, do that instead. Always question why you think you need to write an email. Do you really need to forward that newsletter or reminder? If there is something important to share with a colleague, use copy/paste and write a dynamic subject line. If it’s not worth that effort, don’t send the email.

13. Delete or archive old mail.

It might seem like an arduous task, but just like cleaning out your closet or garage creates a sense of space, so too does cleaning out your inbox. Trust me, you have an abundance of email that you could delete right now and it would have zero effect on your life. Let it go and see how relieved you’ll feel.

14. Clean out your contacts list periodically.

Every 6 months, take a look at your contact list and clean it out. In this day and age, when you can use social media or text to get in touch with someone, do you really need hundreds of contacts in your list? If you have a lot of stray email addresses with no additional information, delete them pronto.


By Andrew Patricio

March 30, 2016