Efficient Email Management – 10 Tips how to get rid of your email addiction and save time

Do you recognize any of the two situations mentioned below?

Situation 1: It is a new day with new opportunities. You are early and you are confident it will be a successful day for you. Before you start working on your “project”, you quickly check your emails to see if there is nothing urgent….and the next thing you know is that it is almost lunchtime. How could this happen? You are angry with yourself that you lost another morning by losing yourself in your inbox.

Situation 2: You don’t want to miss anything. Therefore you check your emails a few times per hour. Sometimes you are rewarded with a great new piece of information and at other times, you are less lucky and find no interesting mail at all….Maybe in five minutes better?

If either of these situations happens to you regularly, here is one thing I can tell: you are not alone. Being a mail junky happens to the best of us. The good news is: YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Here are 10 tips how you can control your inbox instead of the other way round and how you can save valuable time.

Tip 1: NEVER start your day with reading your emails. NEVER. Instead, start with your most important task for that day. This will give you a satisfied feeling of having done something valuable that day.

Tip 2: Do not check your mail more often than 2 times a day. I recommend to do this when you are least productive: e.g. after lunch or at 5 pm. This is probably the toughest of all tips to follow since we are really addicted to information nowadays and we want to make others happy by reacting fast. But is it really so bad to have your contacts wait for a little bit longer than usually? Experiment with it and see how it goes. I bet most of them won’t even notice. And if you feel really bad you can also send an automatic message saying that in order to be more productive you are currently only reading and answering emails twice a day, at 1 and at 5 pm and that if your sender really can’t wait until that time, he/she can call on your cell number, if it is really necessary.

Tip 3: Answer emails that take you less than 2 minutes immediately when you check your mails. You don’t want to be confronted with the same mails more than once. This also means that you need to take fast decisions: Can I answer it within 2 minutes? Yes No? If the answer is NO, move the message to the “! To do” folder (see tip 7) and schedule in your agenda when you will actually answer it. You could even inform the sender when that you have received his/her e-mail and when you are going to react to it.

Tip 4: Keep your inbox empty at all times. Read below how to do it.

Tip 5: Delete e-mails you don’t need. There is no point in keeping something useless.

Tip 6: Create folders in your mailing program where you save the e-mails you don’t want to delete. You can create the folders based on project names, client names, activities. The folders will show in alphabetical order. Once you are done with an email, and you are sure you don’t want to delete it, move it the folder you want to save it in.

Tip 7: Create a folder with “! To do”, “! Waiting” and “! Newsletter”. The exclamation marks make sure the folders will show at the top of your folder list, so you can easily find them. In the folder “! To do” you move every email that you have to take action on but which will take you longer than 2 minutes. In the folder “! Waiting” you park all emails that are not settled yet but where you are waiting for some input from somebody else. You can check this folder once or twice a week to see which projects are still open and if there is somebody whom you might have to send a reminder. In the “! Newsletter” folder you automatically direct every mail that is nice to read but not necessary to read. Whenever you have time left you can decide to go through this folder.

Tip 8: Redirect / filter certain mails. Make sure your newsletter subscriptions don’t come in through your inbox but are automatically directed to the folder “! Newsletter”. This alone will save you an incredible amount of time since you won’t be tempted to read them when they come in. Instead, you can read them whenever you have time left. In the meantime they will be safely stored in your “! Newsletter” folder. You can also filter emails where you are CC-d or from a certain sender. You can even deny access to certain e-mails if you don’t want to receive them at all. If you have Gmail you need to go to Settings > Filters in order to create an automatic redirection. In Outlook you can do this if you go to tools > rules > create new. In Yahoo you go to Options > Mail options > Filters.

Tip 9: Make maximal use of the subject line in an e-mail. Do you receive emails with the subject line “Hi” or “Hello” or even worse: left blank? It is really tough finding the right email when you search for a specific one without (proper) subject lines. A much better approach is to mention the project or client and what this specific email is about. I find this approach easiest:
Lifehacking training Nov. | Participants
Project X | Minutes
Project Y | Draft Flyer

Tip 10: Don’t confuse working with writing emails. Email is just a tool to have your work done. You are not necessarily efficient or effective if you have read and written many emails in a day. People also often use mails to make you a problem owner even though it is often not your problem. So be alert!

And my final tip: Just give the above-mentioned tips a try and you will notice a difference soon.

If you have an overfull inbox I recommend moving all emails to a folder “Till date X” first before applying the tips.

And don’t worry if you are unable to implement all tips at once. It takes time to change old habits…but it is not impossible!

Good luck and let me know how you are going. If find this post useful, please share it with your network by using the social media buttons below. Thanks in advance!

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5 Responses to Efficient Email Management – 10 Tips how to get rid of your email addiction and save time

  1. Henk van der Wijk says:

    Applicable tips to conquer a very real problem!

    Thank you Anna.

  2. Peter says:

    Dear Anna,

    See a lot of tips that I recognize from for instance Getting things done, I tried several and the hardest part stays the time to change old habits… but it is always good to be confronted over and over again with the useful tips! 😉 Tnx!

    Kind regards,


    • Anna says:

      Yes indeed, I’ve read about similar tips in different books. Still have to read the GTD one though.

      I totally agree about how hard it is to change yourself. If I don’t pay attention I keep checking my mails :-)

      Good luck with your change process!

  3. Ruud says:

    Think that are the tools Brian Tracy came up with in his Getting Things Done.
    Method is used widely. There is even Outlook add-on software from Brian Tracy that does all the folder, task and view installation/creation for you. Downside is, that it’s only in English.
    My way of working: just read your mail 2-3 times a day (unless your in the ICT support business). Take action on every mail if needed. All mail that has been read, LEAVE IT. Deleting mail or moving to a different folder? It costs time! Just focus on the new mail. And in this time of massive hard disks… what is a mailbox of 6 Gb? Nothing compared to the 3Tb (or bigger) hard disk we’re using. A smaller (cheaper) option to use: Single Click Filling software for moving your mail around your mail program.

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