Career Talk

/ 3 years ago /

 Article by Brenda Wong

11 email hacks for busy people that actually work

Holy heck guys, how is it Monday already? If you’re anything like us, you might still be dealing with the mountain of emails you’ve received over the weekend. Talk about the blues. Emails are a huge productivity killer, but lucky for you, we’ve come up with email hacks for busy people – that actually work. Take a look:

1. Sort, sort, sort


Labels and folders are great at compartmentalising your various work projects. When you get sent a new email thread or send out a new email, always make sure to label it with the correct project.

This way, when you’re tackling your emails, you can do it by project. Doing this allows for more focus – you can bundle in checking your emails with other tasks connected to the project at hand.

Different email clients use different methods of filing and labelling. So, it’s useful to just take a look at the ‘Help’ section of your Gmail/Outlook/Yahoo Mail account to set your inbox up.

2. Mark messages you need to follow up on as ‘unread’

Email Hacks for Busy People 2

Most email clients have a function where you can sort your inbox by ‘unread emails first’. These then go to the top of your inbox, with all your read emails at the bottom.

Marking messages you need to follow-up with as ‘unread’ are a great way to visually remind yourself of your outstanding email threads. If you don’t need to answer an email immediately, use this trick so you can do it later. Our recommendation is to carve out time at the end of the day to clear those ‘unread’ emails away, so you have a fresh inbox the next day.

3. Optimise your subject lines for searchability

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Instead of using vague subject lines (“Tomorrow’s meeting”, “Notes from today”, “Quick catch-up” etc.) always use clear, dated ones. This way, you won’t be wasting time trying to use the search function to trawl through your inbox for relevant information.

Try dating your emails (Marketing Meeting Minutes: 30th October 2016) or even group them by project (Social Media Campaign 6 | New Updates 30th October 2016). That way, anyone who receives these emails will also know exactly what’s in them. Transparency and clarity for all!


4. Don’t start your day by responding to emails

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Trust us when we say this: your weekend emails can wait a couple of hours. It is so easy to get sucked down the inbox rabbit hole, but don’t let your emails get in the way with your to-do list.

Try accomplishing one big task or two-three smaller tasks before you tackle your daily emails. It’ll make you feel more productive, and if you do get stuck in your inbox, at least you’ve made a dent in your other work too.

5. If you can have a face-to-face or phone conversation, do soEmail Hacks for Busy People 5

There’s nothing more vexing than waiting for a reply on something urgent. This may be difficult for bigger companies, however, the principle is still the same Phone calls or face-to-face conversations tend to bring both parties to the correct conclusion faster than email threads do. If you’re keen on getting things done quickly and efficiently, sometimes old school is the best school.

Besides that, it is so easy to misconstrue something in an email. For better, clearer communication, an actual conversation works best. You’ll be less likely to misinterpret someone’s tone of voice, and can read facial expressions better. Just make sure to write or type out notes during or after so you don’t forget what is said.

6. Go for a walk or a run and THEN go back to answer the non-urgent emails

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A brain break can be the energy boost you need to tackle your beastly inbox.

Take a quick walk around your office building, have a coffee or simply go outside for some fresh air. Then come back into the office to answer your emails. A little bit of space between what you were doing previously and your emails will give you more clarity.

7. Block off time in your calendar specifically to answer emails

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Put a clear appointment time in your calendar saying ‘Do Not Disturb’ and try to take yourself out of the office. This way you can answer your emails uninterrupted, at around the same time every day. Establishing a routine could make answering emails less daunting.

Also important: as soon as your appointment time finishes, stop doing emails and head back to your office! Otherwise you’ll be stuck answering emails forever.

8. Set up an out-of-office reply that works for you

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Now, this is a pretty extreme measure, so use this tactic with caution. Turn your ‘out-of-office’ reply into a full-time email disclaimer!

For example, you could say: “Hi there! Thanks for your email. Your email is very important to me, however I’m taking care of my mental health by only answering them once a day. This might mean any non-urgent enquiries might have a delayed response. If you need to reach me urgently, you can ring the office with this number [xxx-xxx-xxx] or my direct line here [xxx-xxx-xxx].

This way, you manage people’s expectations and give yourself room to breathe at the same time.

9. Turn your push notifications off

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No more interruptions. “But what if it’s urgent?” you cry. Trust us, if it’s urgent, they wouldn’t be using email to communicate with you.

Taking back control of your emails means taking back control of when you look at them. Don’t let that annoying tweeting sound rule your life.

10. Use ‘Slack’ internally if you can

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Slack is a team messaging system that we use here at Debut HQ, and we find it incredibly useful. It’s like a typical instant messaging system, but optimised for agile office teams.

You can group conversations into permanent channels, group message, add attachments, and most importantly, send GIFs. Can your email do that? We don’t think so. This will cut down your internal emails significantly (unfortunately external emails will still be inevitable.)

Other email-killer alternatives include Hipchat (a messaging system), Basecamp or Asana, the latter two being task management systems. Tell us which one you like best!

11. Accept that ‘Inbox Zero’ may be nigh-on impossible

Email Hacks for Busy People

There are two types of people. Type A frets over having any unanswered emails, and tries, in vain, to get to inbox zero daily. Type B lets emails pile up, to disastrous levels (think tens of thousands of ignored emails.) Both situations can be overwhelming.

There are tons of articles out there preaching the benefits of getting to ‘inbox zero’. However, the pursuit of perfection can sometimes be demoralising, even futile. Do your best by using the tips above, but don’t stress if you don’t clear your inbox fully. You’re only human.

Feature image via Pexels

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