10 tips for mastering email

email1Communication is an essential part of managing your business. Every day you have to get in touch with clients, colleagues, employees, vendors, investors and other people who affect your daily operations. While you likely spend a great deal of time on the phone, you’re probably also checking your email and responding to messages throughout the day.

Even as social media and texting continue to streamline communication, email remains ubiquitous in the corporate world. In its Email Statistics Report, 2013-2017, The Radicati Group recently estimated that there are 3.9 billion business email accounts in the world. This total is expected to reach 4.9 billion by 2017.

The news source also reports that over 100 billion business emails are sent on a daily basis. This is because emailing remains the primary means of communication for many professionals.

This isn’t that surprising despite social media’s continued growth. For one, many people probably don’t think about tweeting their associates or customers to ask questions about important matters. Second, smartphones have made it easier than ever to receive and respond to messages. Instead of finding a computer, users can read and reply to every email directly from their mobile devices.

Of course, this can lead to some problems. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by email, especially when you’re expected to respond to everything as quickly as you would a text message. What’s more, there are different best practices for internal messages than there are for client-facing ones.

If you want to master your inbox, follow these helpful email tips.

1) Get off the list
It’s easy to subscribe to emails and it may behoove you to read regular updates from certain senders. However, many of the lists you join won’t help you more than a handful of times so the messages are ultimately spam that do nothing but waste your time.

According to the American Express OPEN Forum, you should take the time to unsubscribe from emails you don’t read anymore. While it might seem like a waste to spend 45 minutes getting off multiple lists, it’ll help in the long run as you won’t have to delete multiple messages every day.

2) First thing in the morning
When many professionals sit down at their desks, the first thing they do is open their email. This makes sense because clients, partners or colleagues may have sent important information after business hours.

However, checking your inbox at the start of the day can cause a few problems. Julie Morgenstern, author of “Never Check E-mail in the Morning,” told Fast Company that people would be better served if they focused on matters other than email.

3) Filters are your friend
Mashable recommends using filters as much as possible. This approach will help keep you organized so you don’t have to waste time searching for something from one of your contacts. Most programs have this feature, but some call them folders or labels even though they general idea is the same.

Create filters for people who regularly reach out to you to ensure that all of their messages are in the same place. Alternatively, you can create groups for clients and co-workers to separate external and internal information.

4) Respond quickly
When you receive a notification for a new email, you should try to respond as fast as you can. In many cases, you’ll likely forget something as soon as you click away to start another task. If you don’t have time to reply or can’t fully answer a question, set a reminder for yourself so you won’t leave the message unanswered.

Some applications allow you to automate your responses. For instance, Gmail features a lab that allows you to save replies to quickly send them instead of typing the similar messages to your contacts.

5) Shut it down 

Many people open their email in one tab and leave it up all day so they can quickly see new notifications. In many instances, this is an efficient strategy because it allows professionals to keep their eye on their inbox without having to open new windows.

However, sometimes you can’t be worrying about how many emails are waiting for you. PC Magazine explains that you should close your application when you need to pay close attention to an important matter. Focusing on one issue ensures you can devote all of your faculties to it.

6) Don’t ask open-ended questions
According to the Art of Manliness, you shouldn’t send emails that are going to start a massive chain. The key is to avoid open-ended questions. You should give people choices or pose queries with yes or no answers so you only receive useful answers instead of opening yourself up to a flood of replies.

7) Delete what you don’t need
You shouldn’t keep emails for no reason. If someone sent you something useless or you received an advertisement you don’t want, just delete it. Cutting down on clutter helps keep your inbox organized.

Emails that do need to be saved should be archived, Small Business Computing reports. Only do this for missives that include important information that you’ll need to refer back to in the future.

8) Think before you mail
Some of your problems are of your own making. Gigaom points out that email “encourages other people to reply,” which is why you need to limit what you’re sending out every day.

Think carefully before you email someone. Would an instant message suffice for this matter? Could you walk across the office and talk to your contact? Search for alternative communication methods so you don’t end up with a large group of replies to a single question.

9) Consider CC replies
If you’re CCed on an email, don’t reply to it right away. In many situations, you’re only included so you’re in the loop on the information going back and forth. Wait until someone asks you a direct question before throwing in your two cents.

10) Check the spam folder
The spam folder is great for filtering out unwanted emails, but it can also be a hindrance. Check it regularly to ensure none of your important messages are being kept out of your inbox.

What are some email tips that have worked well for you?

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