Time. We all want more of it. With meetings, phone calls, projects, deadlines and so many other things to do, the 24 hours in each day just aren’t enough.  The 24 hours themselves won’t change, but there are ways to be proactive about how you manage your time.  These ways also results in opportunities to “create” more time for your priorities.

These days, it is not unusual to receive more than 50 emails per day.  People are more likely to send an email than to pick up the phone or walk to relay a message.  And in addition to routine emails, there are newsletters, notifications from social media sites, and online banking email updates to make you reach your mailbox quota faster than ever.

So how can you take control?  Before you become more overwhelmed by the current number of unread emails in your inbox, here are some tips to get things in order sooner rather than later:

Create set times for checking emails.  It is easy to get distracted when you hear that email notification sound on your computer or see the light flashing on your phone.  But if you’re currently in the middle of something, switching gears can result in inefficiency.  Decide which times of the day work best for checking your emails and stick to them.  Tip: Early morning and mid afternoon work well.  This way, you can incorporate priority items in your day’s plan or you still have time left at the end of the day for items that require immediate attention.

Be decisive.  This will help you address emails right away or not at all.  It is easy to get into the habit of thinking that you’ll return to the email at a later time to read it in its entirety.  But chances are, past behavior will show that you won’t. Address the email right away by responding, flagging it if it requires more time than you currently have or deleting it.  Tip: Develop a system for how you flag items so you know exactly what it means when you see a certain color, for example.

Decide to let go.  It is important to determine which emails you get value from and which ones are taking away your time.  At some point, subscribing to every newsletter is not advantageous because you won’t realistically have time to read all of them.   Tip: Consider emails you may have been receiving over a period of time and haven’t read.  Don’t be afraid to delete them or unsubscribe.

Develop a strategy for deleting.  If you have 5000 unread emails, it won’t be efficient to go through all your emails to find and delete them one-by-one.  Filter your emails to show only the unread ones so you can see the entire picture.  Tip:  Once you’ve identified a set of emails that you no longer need, search by a common theme to delete them in bulk.  For instance, you can search by the incoming email address or the title of the emails if they have identical wording.  Select them all and delete!

Categorize and filter incoming emails.  Use labels and folders to your advantage and have certain emails go directly to these folders.  You may even have them bypass your inbox if they are not priority items.  Tip: For general FYI emails and newsletters, have these bypass your inbox and go to a folder that you can revisit later.  This way, when you open your inbox, you’re left only with important emails.

Reconsider your subscriptions.  Some subscriptions allow you to sign-up for multiple newsletters.  Do you need all 5?  Or can you cut this down to two?  Tip: Consider changing your subscription preferences so you receive your digest on a weekly or monthly basis instead of daily.

With these practices, you gain more control of your own time.  And instead of reacting, you are proactive about how you manage your time.  As you limit the amount you allot to addressing emails, you create more time that you can allocate to other aspects of your life.

Do you have a hard time being in control of your time and emails?  What techniques have you tried to take control of the situation? 

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