Emails are a great way to communicate but anyone can tell you that they can quickly get out of hand, start piling up, and put a stop to your productivity.

The difficulty is that emails are essential for most of our work so it’s something we have to deal with.

  • From time to time we may purge our inboxes.
  • We may spend an afternoon going through the backlog.
  • We may purchase tools or services to declutter.

This article will bring you a few strategies and actions for controlling your emails (so that the emails don’t control you).

1. Begin with removing (or at least filtering) the spam

The email client/service you’re using will have an option for spam filtering. This filter is like a floodgate in which you can open it up, completely, or shut it up and block (almost) all of it. This should be your first course of action so do a Google search for “[Client/Service] + Spam Filter” and set that up accordingly.

The other action you should consider is taking an hour or two to unsubscribe from email lists you no longer want to receive. At the bottom of the emails are links to unsubscribe. A neat trick to do to use the search feature in the client/service to look up “subscribe”, “unsubscribe”, or “privacy” which will show which emails have these options for easy pickings.

One more action you can take is trying to do a Google search for pages which may contain your email. Web scrappers may use these sites to pick up your email and add them to your list. Do what you can to get them removed.

2. Set an order of importance (and use your client/service effectively)

Your email should be like your to-do list in which the important items are placed at the top.

Develop a system to your emails that allows you to:

A. Identify the important emails

B. Answer them quick and effectively

C. Block schedule emails of lesser importance

So, for example, you could imagine client/customer support emails would be high on the list compared to something like an interview request. These emails both have importance but support emails are one that keeps the individuals as a customer and that means money.

3. Push emails to the back of the day (if it’s an option)

It would be beneficial to push emails toward the back of the day (after you’ve done the important ones that brings money to your business). Having the emails at the end of the day allows you to keep your focus on the important work at hand; it also means that some of those emailing you might have already sorted out their issues or requests in the meantime thus making it easier to process the inbox.

A side benefit: Sometimes emails can throw you in a funk such as if you’re receiving hate mail (it happens); reading these in the beginning of the day can start your day at a crawl.

4. Learn how to write better, effective emails

A big problem with email is that we tend to get long-winded. Since we create long emails it’s likely the recipient is going to send one back that may be as long.

In a way it would be beneficial to treat your emails like you would a text message.

Get straight to the point and try to keep it as brief as possible.

Not only are you doing the other person a great service so they’re not spending many minutes reading through the email but it will also help with your communication since it’s direct.

5. Consider printing those of highest importance

There are numerous programs and services we use every day to help manage our emails but sometimes the simplicity of printing out the ones of highest importance can often be the best way to prevent them from being a constant distraction.

Having the important email in your hands allows you to close the email client/service so you aren’t constantly updated and interrupted.

It allows your mind to put a focus on these few important emails much like you would in creating a to-do list. Respond once you’re done processing the information.

Try it out sometime.