Harnessing email, 6 steps to get organized.

If you feel that your time is running out between the fingers, if you feel that you are working several hours a day and don't realy accomplish much, consider how much time you waste on email.

According to the Boomerang for Gmail, the average Internet user receives 147 e-mails and spends 2.5 hours per day on email. Let's face it it's a lot of time, and time is money, especially for freelancers. It is the time for which no one will pay you. I am also convinced, based on how world evolve , it will only get worse, so the sooner we learn to control our mailbox, the better for us.

Here are some crucial things that make managing mailbox
an almost impossible task. 

  1. Email titles that have nothing to do with the content
  2. Lack of a clear expectations
  3. Typos
  4. Unwanted newsletters
  5. Checking email every two minutes
  6. Lack of discipline in organizing your mailbox
  7. Leaving email unanswered and forgetting about them

However, do not fall into exaggerated fatalism as each of the above points can be curbed in a simple way, all you will be needing is a little bit of discipline.

If you are afraid that you can not afford to self-discipline, consider how much time will you gain if you follow these steps. Time which you can use as you wish, to go to the cinema, meeting friends, learning to dance, go out to the gym, all that you want to do, but can't because day is too short.

1. Set your email title wisely

If you write an email to someone, respect their time and set a title which will allow to find it easly even after a year. The folowing scheme works very well:

Name of project / company / client - what's it about - urgency.

In practice, it looks like this:

John Doe - a4 flyer - amendments - till Friday

This way you can be sure that the recipient knows right away, what's the message about, and how much time there is for processing and execution. Chances are that your message will be read in the first place are rising substantially, each freelancer values the client who knows what he wants and is able to say it clear. Also remember that this principle works both ways.

2. Specify your requirements clearly.

Leave a niece's birthday chitchat for meeting with friends for coffee and cookies. In business email clearly define what you want and do not leave any room for speculation. If necessary use a bulleted list. Listed information is easier to process and thus faster to execute.

3. Spellcheck will not kill you

Nowadays, almost every word editor has a built-in spellcheck. Sometimes just a few mouse clicks can make a difference between intelligent and ignoramus.

After writing an email always take a little extra time to read it again and see if everything you wrote is clear. I assure you that it will take less time than explaining in the next few messages exactly what you meant.

4. Limit your newsletters to those which you actually read

Often, we register to the various sites that offer newsletters, sometimes they are important and interesting. However, if you catch yourself on the fact that the fifth newsletter in the row goes straight to the trash unreaded, is much better to simply cancel your subscription. Suddenly your inbox have 80% less unread messages.

5. The package is better than a single piece

Everyone knows that starting a new task takes extra time. If you break the task while you're working, you have to spend a few extra minutes to return to the place where you were interrupted. The same is with responding to emails, if you respond to each and every incoming mail, you lose a lot more time than if you wait until you will get several of them, and answer them all in one go.

Determine that you will check email 2-4 times a day at fixed hours. You will see that work is more pleasant if you can focus on one thing at a time.

6. Swamped inbox

My noble mother always says: If someone has mess around, his life is a mess too. This golden rule also applies to your inbox. If your inbox will contain only e-mails with matters which you are currently working on, you'll see how quickly you will regain control of your working day. Everything we do systematically takes considerably less time. Think of organizing your mail as automatically as brushing your teeth.

If you have hundreds of emails in inbox, take a few hours for general cleaning. You will immediately feel lighter and finish your tasks quicker.

Just remember to quickly view and organize your inbox at end of the day , it will take no more than 5 minutes, and significantly improve your mood and productivity.

Having in your inbox only 5 recent emails instead of hundreds, will never let you to miss out of important message.

Last but probably most important is to adhere to your own rules, That's what I wish you and myself as well.