LearnEmail Power Tips

Treehouse
writes on May 24, 2009

I’ve noticed that when I get stressed at work, it’s often because my email inbox is out of control. I’ve got hundreds of unread emails, with no idea which ones are important. I finally decided I needed to learn how to be much more effective with email, so I came up with a few strategies.

Thanks to David Allen and Tim Ferriss, I created a few simple rules to keep me on top of the madness, and here they are:

  1. Check your email twice a day, but never right when you get into the office
  2. Mark important emails with a star or label
  3. Mark other emails that require a response (but are not urgent) as ‘Later’.
  4. Archive them all to clear your inbox
  5. Finally, master keyboard shortcuts to make answering and writing email much faster

In the video below, I walk you through the whole process. Hope you enjoy it. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please do so below!

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/christopherdale

54 Responses to “Email Power Tips”

  1. My problem is that I’m constantly checking my e-mail at work. Since it automatically pops up showing me that I have a message, it’s hard not to.

    Michelle

  2. This is great stuff and I follow it daily. I actually got this from Tim Ferris’ book “4 Hour Work Week”. Very helpful.

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  3. Very good email tips. Especially the first one about not checking it right away. I am guilty of that every day and before I know it I wasted my first hour on email. I’ll try holding back on the email until a little later from now on.

  4. great info here! great tips and strategy!

  5. This is awesome. My gmail is flooded with messages and is a total mess. I'm in real estate and get a ton of inquiries each day off of our various websites. Thanks so much.

  6. Thank you so much Ryan.This video is a great help for me. I always became overwhelmed with emails before as I used to check emails very now and then in my office hours. It decreased my productivity a lot as I gave my concentration on replying those emails mostly. However, from now on I will follow your advices to be more productive while organizing my emails in an effective manner. 🙂
    Thanks again!!

  7. Ryan,
    Thanks for taking the time to share the tips. Also I really appreciate the video. I have enabled keyboard shortcuts (like some said earlier I don't know why I had not done this before) and it has helped my clean up my inbox and feel a sense of organization 🙂 Thanks again.

  8. Charles on June 18, 2009 at 3:24 am said:

    This is great. I have a suggestion. I find having a structured email subject is really important. As I keep getting hundreds of emails in a day at work. Most of the emails I received rarely has a subject header that I can search for or sort by easily. Especially when it should be related to specific projects that I work on. So if you do that to your friends/contacts, they might return the favor, making it easier for you to sort your emails.

  9. With this new technology I will save a lot of time specially when we have to make important decisions. We are a group of 13 people trying to constantly reaching agreements and this takes time and money. Just for making an appointment deciding the hour , the place, it takes hours.

  10. I have recently started using the "
    flag" in Outlook, and it has helped me a lot. There are multiple colors to choose from, so I can organize them by that. Red needs my attention ASAP, orange by the EOD, and yellow by the end of the week.

  11. Great info thanks…
    Now waiting for "organize your contact and mailing lists 101" 🙂

  12. Excellent tips here Ryan! I've just enabled keyboard shortcuts on all my accounts(I use Mailplane to cycle through them) and in under 10 minutes I was able to get all my email prioritised, labelled and archived accordingly. It feels great for my inbox to finally be organised! One thing I don't think you mentioned is deleting emails, can you shed any light on this one?

  13. I use my email for almost everything I do web related. It is essential.

  14. Thanks for the tips, email can be time consuming.

  15. Cheers David! I've read Merlin's stuff, it's brilliant

    Sent from my iPhone.

  16. Cheers David! I've read Merlin's stuff, it's brilliantSent from my iPhone.

  17. Ryan – I was ONLY able to accomplish email control as an reality after Merlin Mann described it. I encourage all to check out his zero inbox talk to google employees on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9UjeTMb3Yk

    Ryan – keep up the great work.

  18. Ryan – I was ONLY able to accomplish email control as an reality after Merlin Mann described it. I encourage all to check out his zero inbox talk to google employees on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9UjeTMb3Yk

    Ryan – keep up the great work.

  19. getting rid of e-mail spammer is not comfort. By using your tips, we can control our email onbox. Great tips. Keep posting

  20. Thank you so much for the nice tips….

    Really nice post

  21. I threw £50 at Zopa about two years ago 🙂 I have no idea what happened to the money sadly.

  22. Wow – that's crazy. Need to give that a try …

  23. Wow – that's crazy. Need to give that a try …

  24. Wow – that's crazy. Need to give that a try …

  25. Wow – that's crazy. Need to give that a try …

  26. Wow – that's crazy. Need to give that a try …

  27. Very great strategies.Thanks for info guys.
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  28. Very great strategies.Thanks for info guys.
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  29. Hey great advice. The way I look at it…you have look at email the same way you look at regular mail. I thow the junk out I file in my "do read" hopper, the mail that need my attentionm but not time senstive. And the important time sensitive ones I read today.

  30. Sean O'Farrell on May 26, 2009 at 6:55 pm said:

    Sorry if this is slightly off topic but, you lend money through Zopa? That's kinda risky in this economic environment with personal bankruptcies rising, I would have thought. How's it working out for you?

    Re managing email, it's ok, I'm happy with a 3 month turn around time for emails to you 😉

  31. Great article and nice to see some sensible advice. I've taken the tips into practise – and then realised that perhaps I needed to also take them into practise on my Blackberry as well!! Doh!!
    I guess we all clamour to be able to receive and communicate on a 24/7 basis – but then don't tthink of the ramifications that can have!

  32. I use for job TheBat! Gmail only fot serious deals…

  33. Thanks Ryan,

    I would say that setting up filters in Gmail with Labels is very important. It allows me to filter emails by client and thus I know I can "archive" and still come back to the email easily.

    I also find that setting up an "Find all emails that have attachements" filter label is great:

    "Has the words: has:attachment"

  34. Great post and really pleased to see these things coming out as Video now; it would still be great to see a vid-blog of using Things, and other desktop Power tips.

    For Gmail the best tip is to learn the '?' key (invoked with Shift-/) to get the Keyboard Shortcut helper up. http://img.skitch.com/20090526-bhygf8muabmfnfr8a3

    You should run a poll widget on some of these topics – Mac / PC – Gmail / Outlook – it would be good stats of the audience.
    Dan
    http://filesharehq.com

  35. Great post and really pleased to see these things coming out as Video now; it would still be great to see a vid-blog of using Things, and other desktop Power tips.

    For Gmail the best tip is to learn the '?' key (invoked with Shift-/) to get the Keyboard Shortcut helper up. http://img.skitch.com/20090526-bhygf8muabmfnfr8a3

    You should run a poll widget on some of these topics – Mac / PC – Gmail / Outlook – it would be good stats of the audience.
    Dan
    http://filesharehq.com

  36. The most important thing missing from this article is context; just which kind of individual are we talking about giving tips to? There is no one-size-fits-all solution for email, and what works for one person will doubtless be terribly useless for another. I would say that using a well-known technology event organiser as a template for your own patterns would be a pretty bad start, unless you also happen to be a well-known technology event organiser.

    Take for example only checking your email twice a day, and not right at the start of the day. It surely doesn't take a lot of thinking to come up with personas for whom this would be a very dangerous way of working. Some people need to be aware of issues first thing in the morning, and if email is how they're communicated then they can't ignore them. Doing so will not make these individuals more productive.

    The most important thing to remember with any email organisation scheme is that your mileage may vary; it's far better to read the more lengthy advice that people who have made GTD and email management their field of discipline than accept a 5 point checklist at face value.

  37. mcaulay on May 26, 2009 at 9:40 am said:

    just turned my keyboard shortcuts on after watching your demo. dunno why I never tried this out before so thanks! One thing I also use is the "multiple inboxes" plugin from labs, this gives me my starred items first then my inbox second. using the same principles you do, I place all important mail from inbox into starred first then archive it when it's dealt with. anything left in my inbox gets dealt with second. I think if I just labelled it and archived it, I may "forget" to get around to dealing with it at all….now, to try and limit looking at my email down to a few times a day…this will be difficult.

  38. I tend to use Gmail Notifier in firefox, what I like to do is mark all email as read and tag them up appropriately as suggested. I then a few times a day do the actual sifting and replying, using the theory of if its not in the inbox it's been dealt with, helps greatly. I find archiving emails greatly satisfying. For non-gmail stuff (i.e work email) I do the same tho, in Mail on my mac I tend to just flag the more important ones as way of sorting.

    Additional tip, If an email is a reminder I tend to delete it and add the reminder to my calendar, or if its a todo I equally add it to my todo list. I personally find seperating stuff out of my email stops it looking so clogged up and stressfull times.

  39. Great post! Thanks for tips provided..it's very informative especially when you're dealing with a hundred unread email…

  40. This is a good option. I followed another guys advice who says just check it once a day. Never at the begining, but I rarely adhere to the once a day thing. I am more like 2 to 3 times a day.

  41. I use Outlook – as I have to deal with 7 mailboxes. I have used the rules wizard to seperate each email address into a seperate folder (doesnt work if your Bcc'd). So email received automatically drops into the correct folder. Within each folder I have subfolders and have automatically set up certain email received to be dropped in such sub-folders. (eg friends dropping into a friends folder). Moreover, I have changed the 'send-receive' automatic schedule. Initially it was every minute – now its every 2 hours. There's always the option of hitting the 'send-receive' button if your feeling a bit 'weak'…

    Next step is to get a system for the Blackberry…How about a follow up post Ryan?

  42. This is very helpful specially when i'm receiving a lot of email everyday.

  43. Damian on May 25, 2009 at 11:01 am said:

    Excellent tips here Ryan! I've just enabled keyboard shortcuts on all my accounts(I use Mailplane to cycle through them) and in under 10 minutes I was able to get all my email prioritised, labelled and archived accordingly. It feels great for my inbox to finally be organised! One thing I don't think you mentioned is deleting emails, can you shed any light on this one?

  44. To be able to catch up with all the reading, I started using something new: Pearlreader.com
    I send the links to texts I must read and they send me the texts as audio in a personal Podcast. Like this I hear all texts in the car – and save a lot of time.

  45. Four times a day is probably a good place to start – you're right.

  46. Great tips – thanks 🙂

  47. Guest on May 25, 2009 at 4:26 am said:

    Save even more time by adjusting your keyboard shortcut order slightly:
    – when first prioritizing the list of emails, star and also select the priority items first instead of starring all, then returning to those items again to select for archiving
    – when responding to a priority email, un-star the original first before replying

  48. The first point is a really important one.

    'Check your email twice a day, but never right when you get into the office'

    I started only checking my email 4 times a day some time back and it made a massive difference to my day. I have not yet got down to 2 times. What you notice most is you average level of anxiety is dramatically reduced.

  49. bebopdesigner on May 24, 2009 at 11:42 pm said:

    This is handy. Thanks for posting.

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