With this post I’d like to share a few strategies I use to keep my email manageable and suggest some ways out of being overwhelmed with today’s communication.
1. Get a good spam filter
This one is basic, therefore it’s the first.
I get 150–300 spam mails each day, so a good spam filter is essential. Mail.app‘s built-in junk filter may serve this purpose for some people but since I can’t stand spam at all I upgraded to SpamSieve which is worth every single cent of the 30 bucks it costs (if not even more). Only ~1 spam mail each week slips through SpamSieve’s filtering. My Inbox is clean!
2. Set up rules to sort out incoming emails
Apart from spam, there’s bacn. This is a new term for e-mail you want, but not right now and describes the middle class of e-mail, such as notifications of new followers on Twitter or the Google alert for your name.
I set up some rules in Mail.app that push those e-mails right out of my Inbox into a special “Bacn” folder — so I can quickly skim through them if I’ve got some spare time and don’t know what to do. Bacn is out of the way.
3. Develop a way for fast processing
Open up an unread message, read it and decide whether you need to take any action or not. If you choose the latter, go on with the next e-mail. Otherwise put it on your to-do list and move on.
I use iGTD to store and organize my tasks — it is an amazing application and provided for free. I recommend it to any Mac user — I just hit F6 in Mail and it copies the active e-mail over into a new task created in iGTDs Inbox, a link back to the original e-mail included.
4. Organise your Inbox for faster retrieving
I know many people which use gigantic entanglements of folders to store their e-mail. Why bother with remembering where you put that mail? With the speedy computers we have nowadays using the search function is neither slow nor complicated, so there’s no need to file e-mails away. If an e-mail is read, I choose between two options: delete or archive. The latter happens automatically: once an e-mail is marked as read and stayed in my Inbox for 10 days, it’s moved to my Archive folder. Mail.app’s rules rule!
If you’d like to support Mail.app with finding your mails, try MailTags 2.0: This handy plugin enables Mail to save some additional information alongside your e-mails that can be searched as well. Add keywords and notes to your messages, assign a project and priority or create an event in iCal directly from Mail and maintain the link between the original message and the item in iCal.
MailTags also works nicely in conjunction with the above-mentioned iGTD — information such as priority, keywords, note, due date and if the item is flagged or not gets copied over to iGTD as well as the original message itself. If you donate to iGTDs developer, you can even get a 5$ coupon for MailTags.
5. Use proper subjects
Let the recipient know what your mail is about. When I have an email with the subject “LOL” and perhaps a smiley after that in my Inbox, I have to open it up only to read “Check out those funny kittens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRCux7wefH0″. You get the idea.
If this email was entitled “Funny cats on Youtube” I could either safely delete it or ignore it until I have some spare time and a need for more silly cat content.
6. Keep it short
The shorter e-mails are, the faster they can be written and processed. So focus on what’s important and leave out nonessential information.
Let me quote Guy Kawasaki‘s five-sentence rule: “All you should do is explain who you are, what you want, why you should get it, and when you need it by.”
Mike Davidson, the CEO of Newsvine, also limits his outgoing e-mail to five sentences or less and set up a site called five.sentenc.es — include a link to it in your signature, if you like to spread the word and explain why you keep your e-mail short.
7. Stick to (your) GTD principles
First collect information, then process it. This simple technique can save you a ton of time — don’t get distracted, focus on what you’re doing and ignore Mail, IM and Twitter.
Batch process new e-mails, tweets or whatever at scheduled times or when you’ve really got the time it takes — which means that there is nothing as important on your to-do list.
8. Wait before responding to non-emergency messages
Processing e-mail at set times has another positive effect: If you’re responding too quick to especially little important e-mails, you might set too high expectations for the future — try to respond within 48 hours, but don’t do it right away.
9. Teach others to do the preliminary work for you
Tell co-workers, friends and family to text or call you if something’s urgent and point them to your email guidelines. Tell them you’re processing emails with higher priority if they have an adequate and significant subject.
And show them that you mean business — delay responses to e-mails that haven’t got a good subject and change it to something that fits better. Train others how to use e-mail!
Which are your favourite techniques for efficient e-mailing? Feel free to share them via the comments!
Trackbacks & Pingbacks
- Shawn Blanc » Email Productivity pingbacked Posted August 24, 2007, 12:26 am
- GTD With Email: Turn Mail.app Messages into Tasks with iGTD · TechBlogger pingbacked Posted August 25, 2007, 3:36 am
- blog » Blog Archive » e-mail pingbacked Posted August 25, 2007, 5:20 am
- IAMWW » 9 Tips For Processing E-Mail More Efficiently pingbacked Posted August 29, 2007, 6:45 am
- Burning Ones trackbacked Posted August 30, 2007, 4:21 am
- iGTD and Mail.app Together For E-mail to Tasks pingbacked Posted August 30, 2007, 6:31 am
- Pimp your Mac trackbacked Posted October 5, 2007, 10:40 am
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