Have you ever replied to an email thread expecting everyone in the group to receive your message only to realize days later you only replied to a single person? Or even worse… have you ever written a personal message and accidentally hit “Reply All” instead of just sending it to one person? If you have, it’s likely those incidents could have been avoided with better business email management.
Love it or hate it, business email management is likely to remain a part of your professional life for the next few years (or even more). But even if you hate it, there are ways to make your inbox become a more inviting and productive place. And this can be achieved with simple email management best practices at work that you can implement in no time at all.
Why you should take care of your company’s email culture
Good business email management is important because your inbox can become an endless time vacuum if you’re not careful. It’s so easy to not even realize how much time you’re spending on tasks that, at the end of the day, contribute very little to your main objectives and indicators at work.
A recent UK-based survey with 500 business leaders found 25% of participants spent at least one hour a day sorting out their inbox. In spite of that, 63% said they felt they were wasting time, and 55% said they already felt frustrated for not being able to find specific documents. Worst yet, 45% cited cases in which poor email management led to missed customer and client opportunities.
Mismanaging your work email can lead to a lot of time loss. Some other problems that can arise from disorganized business emails include:
- Cluttered inboxes where you can’t sort what’s important and what can wait
- Sending messages to the wrong person
- Compromising sensitive data from your company
- Missing deadlines and due dates for deliverables
- Difficulty finding important documents and information
- Time loss due to disorganization
These problems add up quickly. According to Harvard Business Review, checking email compulsively wastes 21 minutes per day, with full inboxes costing us an additional 27 daily minutes, and 8 more minutes every day for reading and processing irrelevant emails. That’s over an hour a day lost to poor email management.
These problems won’t just affect your daily work, but they can negatively impact your entire team. Difficulties finding important information in your inbox can lead you to duplicate requests to other departments, missing important deliverables, and several other issues which can make it harder for your teammates to work with you. Maintaining proper email etiquette, after all, is an important part of corporate teamwork.
14 Tips and best practices for business email management
It’s probably clear by now that applying email management best practices at work can give you several benefits. Below, we’ve listed 14 tips to help you get started with improving your team’s email management.
Tip #1: Use shared inboxes
Creating a shared inbox for your team can have several benefits. By having more eyes on one email, you’ll be able to decrease response times and prevent important messages from going unnoticed. Shared inboxes can also allow you to delegate threads to certain team members, track each person’s performance, and use a handful of other useful collaboration features.
Tip #2: Turn emails into tasks
Some shared inbox solutions also allow you to transform each message into a task, delegating it to someone and giving it a deadline. These solutions are invaluable because they ensure that you’re actually getting work done from your inbox (as opposed to just organizing messages into neatly colored labels). They can also help you keep track of the things you need to do (not just your unread messages), which is helpful for putting your business email management efforts into a bigger context.
Tip #3: Schedule email times
Since overchecking your inbox can waste time, it’s better to define one or two moments in your day for making sure you’re up to date with your email. This can be something around 15 minutes each day, but it’s important that you respect that time limit. After all, it’s quite unlikely that answering emails is your main responsibility at work, so restricting the amount of time you spend doing that ensures you’re not robbing time from other important tasks.
Tip #4: Deactivate notifications
Once you’ve decided on specific times to check on your inbox, pop-up notifications saying that you have new messages won’t really help you. They’ll just be distracting you from what you’re doing. In this case, it’s best to turn them off. You can go ahead and close your email tab entirely, since even a small amount of unread messages can be enough to keep some people from focusing on what they’re doing.
Tip #5: Save time with templates
Email templates can save tons of time. If you find yourself typing the same message over and over, create a template for that email with blanks to fill in. The next time you need to send a similar message, just copy from the template and add in specific information. Bonus tip: some BPM software such as Pipefy allow you to automate the process of sending those emails, which can be especially helpful.
Tip #6: Automate whatever you can
Any task or process that’s repeated often with only minor variations is probably a good candidate for automation. Common activities such as generating documents from client data, extracting reports with performance indicators, and asking for approval from managers can usually be automated with the help of BPM software such as Pipefy — and at little or no cost.
These examples are relatively simple, but you can go on to automate even more sophisticated processes once you’ve got the hang of it. And even the simple tasks add up to give you back a lot of time (and bandwidth) once you don’t have to deal with them anymore.
Tip #7: Delegate when necessary
You’ll sometimes receive messages with requests you shouldn’t have to deal with, either because you’re not the right person for that task or because you need to focus on other projects for the time being. In these cases, be sure to delegate the corresponding tasks to the appropriate person. And let the sender know to whom they should forward similar requests from now on. Plus, if you’re using a shared inbox solution, delegating can be as simple as selecting a name from a drop-down list.
Tip #8: Think before you reply-all
Before you hit “reply-all,” consider if everyone that’s copied in that email thread really needs to read what you’re about to send. If not, then it’s better to just reply to the person (or people) that actually need to. This prevents useless messages from clogging your teammate’s inboxes, and they’ll be more likely to return the favor. Also, be mindful not to accidentally share sensitive information with people outside of your organization.
Tip #9: Create an email playbook
Email management best practices work a lot better if your entire company is following them. To achieve this, it may be worth taking the time to write an email playbook — essentially a guide on how to write business emails in the best possible way. You can add to it tips like “double-check your grammar,” “add a TL;DR or summary at the end of it if the message is too long,” or whatever other practices work best for your team.
Tip #10: Disable automatic emails from apps
Part of your inbox is likely to be a useless clutter of email notifications sent to you by social media or other apps you use daily. Some of these may be actually useful, but most of them are probably notifying you of things you already know. Ignoring them is easy enough, but disabling email notifications in the apps’ configurations is the best thing to do.
Tip #11: Rule it out
You can use rules and filters to help sort out your messages before you even see them. The best way of doing this really depends on your work routine, but some rules can be useful for a large number of workers, such as sending all emails from your boss to an “Urgent” folder, or automatically archiving all newsletters and marketing materials.
Tip #12: Consider the 1-minute rule
If you can do it in less than a minute, then do it immediately: that’s the 1-minute rule. It may be quite helpful for email management, as it will help you quickly sift through the messages in your inbox while getting some tasks cleared. But depending on how much of a backlog and what kind of pending demands you have, it can be better to focus on the more urgent and important messages. In any case, this approach is worth considering.
Tip #13: Be thoughtful with subject lines
When composing emails, take special care when writing the subject line. Having a straight-to-the-point subject line can cut down on the time it takes for you to get a reply, as the reader won’t have to open your message and parse through it to figure out what you need. Try to make your demands and questions as clear as possible without writing a subject line that’s too long to fit in the preview space.
Tip # 14: Remember attachments
Forgetting attachments is a decades-old embarrassment that keeps happening in spite of our awareness of it and efforts from email apps to prevent it — Gmail, for instance, will warn you if you write the word “attached” but don’t upload a file. Besides those reminders, the best way to keep it from happening is to attach the file you intend to send before you even begin writing.
Transform the way your team works with Pipefy
With these tips, you should be able to make business email management easier and less time-consuming. Email has been around for quite some time, and even with the arrival of instant messaging platforms such as Slack or Teams, it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Therefore, knowing how to organize work email is likely to be a relevant skill for quite some time.
Pipefy’s Shared Inbox can make this process even easier. It allows you to centralize all business emails into one place and to turn incoming messages into actionable cards. These cards can be easily sorted, moved, and automated to ensure that the time you spend in your inbox is as productive as possible.