Getting an email inbox under control is a daunting task. It’s worse when you have no easy way to prioritize and batch the email answers that master most.
For a long time I’ve labored through inboxes newest to oldest (while others do oldest to newest), spending much of my inbox time passing over or closing irrelevant sales emails and other subscriptions – or assigning mail to categorized inboxes. In all that sorting time, I’ve felt productive, but have gotten fewer important emails actually answered.
The glory of Gmail (or any email client with a strong search functionality) is that you don’t have to do inboxes this way. And I basically just realized that today. If any of you are, like me, not the smartest tools in the shed of email processing, here are a couple of neat ways to process incoming email:
1. Process by sender
If you have to prioritize and choose which emails you’ll answer first, you’ll probably want to choose your direct superiors, important clients, and teammates. These are your most important stakeholders, and it’s most important that you keep up good communications with them.
Search by their sending email address to find a batch of everything they’ve sent, then send a batch of replies to close out any open threads.
2. Process by topic
Working on an important project over a longer period of time? If you’re only going to be able to answer *some* of your emails, choose to keep your collaborators up to date. Search by key words related to your project, get a batch of emails, and then send a batch of replies.
Simple processing tactics? Yes. But sometimes the best email tactics are not obvious.
P.S. Email searching and batching is by no means new, and batching is drawn from others. Search and what I say about it here is partly my own experience so far (today).