A colleague told me on Saturday he had already received 700 messages by mid-afternoon. I don’t have that same volume of inbound messages, but this is how I do my best to manage the tidal wave.
1. Unsubscribe from low value and no value messages
At least once a day I unsubscribe from a news outlet, merchant or association email that is no longer providing me valuable information or helping solve problems.
2. Fast triage – delete, reply now, reply later
As I open an email I make a rapid triage decision. If I can delete, I sent a message to trash immediately. If a message can be handled with a quick reply (compose and send a response in less than 60 seconds) I do so immediately.
Messages that require a longer reply or a more thoughtful action are set aside, left in my inbox, to be managed later. This is where emails turn into to-do items. I am not thrilled about my inbox being a de facto to-do list, but it’s reality.
3. Subject line as an action item
I assume most of my outbound messages and email replies are read on a mobile phone email application which likely truncates the subject line. Composing the subject line is much like writing a headline – unique, urgent, useful and ultra-specific. When I need a reply to a message I add “Reply by DATE” at the start of the subject line. I also include “Reply by DATE” in the body of the email.
4. End the conversation
Many messages are “Thanks” or “Thanks for letting me know.” Or some other type of acknowledgement. Each of these messages takes time for me to process, file or delete. To avoid these messages I add the phrase “No Reply Needed” to messages.
5. Invite a response
I recently read that ending a message with “Thanks in advance” is most likely to elicit a response. I have adopted this salutation but haven’t tracked success.
6. Use email alternatives for urgent and important conversations
Email is terrible for urgent and important resolution to pressing questions or problems requiring fast resolution. Instant messaging, text messaging and phone calls are far superior for getting an answer from me or for me to move an action item to completion.
Thanks in advance for reading!