Legal and business professions run on email nowadays. In fact, it's impracticable to go through an eight-hour business day without checking your inbox. Unfortunately, as your email history builds and you become more popular, it can be stress-inducing thinking about trying to find an old email, searching for someone's phone number hidden in a long thread or just anticipating opening your inbox.
Email can quickly turn from a godsend to a demon if your inbox gets out of hand. Instead of your email being a tool, it becomes overwhelming and a waste of your time.
To avoid your email turning into a problem or to get it back to the solution it once was, follow these tips:
"There's a reason email providers offer folder and label functions – you should use them."
1. Organize your inbox. There's a reason email providers offer folder and label functions – you should use them. Set aside time one day to make folders and labels for your clients and other matters, such as newsletters and correspondence from specific bar associations or organizations. Then don't forget about them. You can ensure you use your folders and labels by setting up filters – this way emails from certain people automatically go to the right folder.
2. Integrate the program with your CMS. Your email program and case management software should work together, and if they aren't, you're wasting time and resources. Integrating these two programs allows you to move information such as contacts and events back and forth seamlessly. It also means you don't have to input the same data twice.
3. Create tasks, reminders and contacts. To save yourself from going back to find old emails, save the information you need from the correspondence right away. If there's contact information, make a new contact immediately. If there are dates and times for meetings, make a new task or calendar event. Additionally, if you just want to remember to check with a person later, set reminders. Email programs have a variety of neat tools – using them will truly help you stay on top of your workload.
4. Clear out unnecessary subscriptions. It's easy to build up a steady stream of junk mail – newsletters from organizations you don't belong to any more, advertisements from charities, etc. Reading these subject lines and deleting them one by one every day is a waste of your valuable time. Instead, when you see junk subscriptions pop up, take 30 seconds to open the email and unsubscribe. It may take a few weeks to get rid of them all, but you need to stay true to your goal of managing your inbox and not be afraid to delete.
5. Designate email checking time. You may think it's best to look at your inbox frequently but this actually distracts you and pulls you away from other important work. Instead, assign yourself times to look at email throughout the day such as when you arrive at work, before lunch, at 2 p.m. and 30 minutes before you head home for the day. Set up whatever frequency of check-ins you need, but don't make them too often otherwise you're not saving yourself time.
"You don't need to know the exact minute a new email arrives."
6. Turn off notifications. The best way to stick to your designated check-in times is to turn off email notifications. You don't need to know the exact minute a new email arrives, and sounds or extra boxes popping up on screen will just get you sidetracked from your other work.
Email is a modern miracle, but one that can become a burden if you aren't careful. By using these tips, you can create healthy email habits at work, allowing you to use email the way it was intended – as an efficient means of communication. There's no need to maintain an inbox that presents you with hundreds of unorganized emails each day – set up your filters and folders and stick with your schedule.