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How to Manage Emails Effectively

How to Manage Emails Effectively

How to manage emails effectively

Are you a victim of email overload? Here are some great tips to manage your emails efficiently.

Learn and apply the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle).

The 80/20 rule suggests that 80% or more of the value of any body of information, is contained in 20% or less, of its content.

That principle can be applied to:

  • All your emails, taken as a whole, and/or
  • Each individual email.

80/20 rule applied to all your emails, taken as a whole.

The 80/20 rule means that 80% or more of the value of all the messages in your inbox, is contained in 20% or less of the total.

That means, the vast majority of the value of your emails, is contained in just one fifth of them.

Therefore, rather than reading all your emails in turn, your goal is to explicitly search your inbox for that 20% minority, which contains the maximum value for you and your projects.

80/20 applied to each individual email.

The 80/20 rule also means 80% or more of the value of any individual email, is contained in 20% of its print.

That means that you should practice the art of skim-reading. Which means looking for key words, phrases and questions that contain "the meat of the message".

Remember that many people talk too much. Therefore, you don't need to read everything, and you shouldn't even try. Instead, perfect the art of 80/20 reading.

Apply the 80/20 rule to your writing.

Here is the sad truth: 80% or more of what you write, people won't read.

So, don't write it.

Instead, try to reduce the volume of your email writing to the absolute minimum.

Remember that 80% of the value of any message, is contained in 20% of its content.

Therefore, learn to condense your message to one fifth its normal length, but still retain 100% of the valuable information (ie eliminate non-essentials).

Bullet points are ideal for conveying points in emails - keep these to a maximum of 7 points.

It is also crucial that you split multiple, distinct topics into different emails.

Don't mix categories. One email per topic.

Use the email subject line effectively.

To aid others in reading and categorising your email, use the subject line effectively.

It should describe most of the email's content in no more than 100 characters.

Keep recurring subject line consistent. For example, if you are in charge of sending out meeting minutes each week, adopt a standardised subject line such as: "[Department Name] meeting notes from [Meeting Date]". This will allow readers (and you) to quickly search for similar emails in the future.

You should also note any action items and timescales for the reader.

Bad subject line examples:

  • Notes from the meeting
  • RE: Final document approval
  • FW: Please action ASAP!

Good subject line examples:

  • HR meeting notes from 2/4/2019
  • Sales document for "Corporate Coach Group" - needs your approval by 2/4/2019
  • Update your payment information - action required today 2/4/2019

Set aside specific times to read emails.

Don't allow yourself to be continually distracted by incoming emails.

Your mind works better when it is concentrated and focused on the task at hand.

If you keep breaking-off what you are doing, every time something pops into your inbox, then you will develop a distracted, unfocused and fragmented work pattern, that is both inefficient and stressful.

Instead, focus and concentrate. Set aside definite times when you will focus on emails; and definite times when you won't.

If you are using Outlook, set your email options to not display notifications when you get new emails.

This will allow you to keep Outlook open, but not be distracted by the notifications that appear whilst performing other tasks.

An alternative would be to close Outlook and then reopen it, for example, for 10 minutes every hour.

If you have setup email alerts on your phone, it is a good idea to enable do not disturb mode whilst at work, or mute notification sounds for your emails.

Set up systems that categorise similar things into named folders.

Proper classification and organisation of information will make you more efficient.

To the degree to which it is disorganised, your mind works badly.

To the degree to which it is well organised, your mind works well.

Therefore, set up a system that organises your emails by classifying similar things into sets with named folders.

Then for each email, action it as follows:

  • Delete emails you are never going to need again.
  • Delegate emails by forwarding them to the best person to action them, along with a SMART instruction. Then move into your Archive folder.
  • Respond to quick emails (less than 2 minutes action required), then move to your Archive folder.
  • Defer longer emails (more than 2 minutes action required) by moving them to your 'To Do' folder. Process these emails in one or more sessions in your designated 'email time'.

Regularly unsubscribe from all unwanted senders.

Once a month, tidy-up your subscriptions and unsubscribe from all senders of trashy automated emails.

Prioritise your responses.

When you are deciding your priorities to your deferred emails (see above), apply the 80/20 rule.

Write your high value 20% email responses first.

Don't do the easiest things first, simply because they are easy.

Do the most valuable things first, even if they are hard or unpleasant.

Never procrastinate, which means putting-off important things because they are difficult.

Write your most valuable emails first.

Time Management Course

Check out our one-day Time Management Course if you would like to learn more about the most effective way to handle emails and other distractions in the workplace.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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