Email Management Made Simple

Before you can get your out-of-control emails into some kind of manageable system, all you need is to map out a plan.

The objective is to be able to see at a glance what needs attention right now, without having to spend time looking for an important email, that you missed.

All it takes is a little set-up of folders and filters (or rules, as some email clients call them).

Step 1: Folders set up

Every modern email host and client supports some kind of folder structure. In Outlook and Mac Mail, for example, you can create folders within (or outside) your main “Inbox” folder. The same is true for free email providers like Gmail who offer “labels” instead. Labels act like folders, without cluttering up the interface. Setting up folders is very simple, usually a right click and create folder will finish it off.

Your business structure and the way you prefer to work will determine how you set up your folders. For example, you may want to create a folder for each client, for each project, or nested folders for both. You may even want folders titled “Requires Action” (for emails that contain to-do items) and “Requires Response” (for emails you need to answer).

Other helpful folders may be “Read Later” for not so urgent emails, and “Receipts” for things you’ve already purchased.

Step 2: Automation Rules

Once you have your folder structure set up, you can add some rules to automatically file your income mail. That way, you don’t have to open the same email multiple times – you only have to look at it when you’re ready to work on that project/folder.

Like folders, most modern email systems offer automation rules. You can set up rules to move incoming mail to a folder, flag it for easy location, or even delete it. Rules can be based on a number of different criteria, including sender address, subject, keywords, who it was sent to, and whether or not it contains an attachment.

The easiest way to set up rules (or filters, as they’re known in Gmail) is to build each one based on a piece of email you receive. For example, if you receive an email from a client to your Gmail box, and you want to file all future emails from her to the folder you’ve created, you would simply open the email, click the “More” button, and choose “Filter messages like these.” Then just follow the prompts. All future emails that match your filter criteria will be treated the same way.

Automation will make productivity painless. To make this system work, you have to review your folders and rules regularly, in line with your priorities and current projects. An ongoing task you may choose to outsource to your virtual assistant (or remote executive assistant), to help keep your inbox tidy. This means, you simply will not need to check your email every few minutes, or every time the “unread” number goes up.

Check this useful blog for more tips: Simple Guide to Managing your Email More Effectively.

 PS: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /