Is your email box out of control? Think about your house number (mine is 25181). Do you have more emails sitting in your inbox than your house number? If so, you’re in trouble!
Here are some helpful tips to keep your email inbox organized and the envy of coworkers. If you have too many emails, take note:
OHIO: Only handle an email once.
When you’re getting many different emails a day, it becomes impossible to track what you’ve done or have to do. So don’t move on until you’ve finished what you need for that message. Just don’t close and make a mental note to take care of it later. Odds are you won’t. Respond to the email, if needed, and ask for clarification right away if you’re unsure. File it away if it’s something that needs no action, but still should be saved. Forward it on right away if it’s something that should get seen by another member of your team, or if you were not the intended recipient. Make it a task if it’s a project that needs more in-depth attention. But make sure that the task is prominent and specific enough that you know for sure what your next steps are. Delete it if it’s something that you are certain you will no longer need. Think of the time you’ll save only handling emails once!
Categorize messages by using email folders and tabs to categorize messages so that when they arrive in your inbox they are already sorted. Create folders for “Client Communication,” “[name of your firm],” and more, to help you determine which emails are most urgent, and to make it easier to find them later, if need be. You could even have a folder for each ongoing case, archiving each once the case is finished.
When your email inbox gets too complicated, it may be better to store separate files in a place where you know you can reference them later. Download conversations that you want to keep a record of to a specific file on your computer by saving the email as PDF. Store all such emails in the same place so that you can easily find those important files later on.
BLUF: Bottom line up front.
Are reading and responding to emails too confusing or time-consuming? Frustrated when readers don’t understand your messages or don’t give the needed information? Or confused by the messages you’re receiving from others? A policy of putting the important stuff at the beginning of the email can help cut down on people who don’t read the whole thing, or who could get lost in the explanations. Focus on the point of the email and provide context afterward.
OOO: Out of office.
Be sure to use this message when you need a rapid-fire way to let the sender know that you won’t get back to them right away.
WFH: Working from home.
Give your team a heads up that you’ll be working from home today, without feeling the need to explain or further justify.
EOM: End of message.
I personally don’t use this technique, but it makes sense. Sending a one-line email? Keep it all in the subject line and let everyone know that’s all there is. Short, sweet, and to the point.
PRB: Please reply by.
Let everyone know you need a quick reply by sharing a due date.
NRN: No reply necessary.
You’ve shared information with a long list of people. And now, you can expect many “thanks!” and “got it!” email responses. Instead, let recipients know that you require no thanks or acknowledgment with these three letters.