6 April 2021

How to Fix Email

How many times are you checking your email each day? Either because you’re bored or because you’re trying to stay on top of your unread count? How much spam are you getting? Cat memes you didn’t ask for (but why not, they’re about cats!), and messages you didn’t need to be cc’d on. That’s not including all the newsletters and ads you subscribed to at one point.

We’re overloaded by email. And the worse part is, the business world runs on email. Love it or hate it, you can’t leave it behind or pretend it doesn’t exist. Google ’email overload’ and you’ll see lots of discussion on how to make it better. How many times have you tried to fix your email problem? Inbox Zero marathons, filters, changing email address, the options are out there.

But maybe the answer isn’t in how you handle the messages you receive, but in how you handle the messages you send.  I believe that one of the ways to fix email is to send better messages.  You can’t change how someone else uses email, but you can lead by example of how email should be used.

So where do we start? The first step is Brevity.

I’m as guilty as the next person of sending long messages. There are always things I want to explain or points I think I need to clarify. But what if I didn’t do that? What if I just responded with what was asked instead of elaborating?

Now, I’m not saying to forgo all the niceties like hello and thanks. Those are an important part of every email. But before you respond, consider the question being asked and how much information you really need to share.  (This is one I’ve got to work on myself!)

So what’s your next step? Look at that email you were about to send. Can it be shortened up? Is there a better, more concise way to say what you were about to say? Not all emails call for brevity, but you’d be surprised at how many do.

What about you? How’s your email count feeling lately? Drop me an email (april@iliosdigital.com) or comment here and let me know!

Then join me next week for Step 2 to fixing email!

24 March 2021

Coffee and Filters

Coffee, emails about upcoming sales, and Google search results. What do these three things have in common? They’re all things that can be filtered!

I recently worked with a client who subscribed to a lot of mailing lists. Lists for continuing education courses, lists for sales and promotions, and lists for professional chatter (forum activity). She received so many of these emails that her action item emails were getting lost in the mess. Because she didn’t want to unsubscribe – but didn’t need to see these emails right away – filters were the best answer.

Filters allow you to take a specific type of email – from a certain person or company –  and have it skip the inbox, going instead into a designated folder. The email is still there and marked as unread, but it isn’t competing with more urgent action emails in your inbox.

Each email system has its own method of setting up filters or rules as they are sometimes called. It takes a little bit of work on the front end to set up filters, but the resulting increase in productivity makes it worthwhile. Once you have those relevant but not urgent emails in their own folder, you can read them when you are ready. 

If you are a Gmail user, your email may already be doing some of this if you utilize the multi-tab – Priority, Social, Updates, Promotions, and Forums – approach. 

If you need help setting up your email filters, let’s talk! Schedule a Discovery Call and together we’ll figure out the best approach. 

16 March 2021

How much email is too much?

What’s your inbox unread count?

How do you feel about that?

It’s always an interesting question. Frequently when I meet someone and tell them what I do, they mention that their inbox is out of control. Every time I think I’ve heard the highest number, someone else tops it. But the bigger question is, how do you feel about your inbox unread count?

I’ve had people with an unread count in the 10K range who were fine with that. Their comment was ‘I’ve read most of those on my phone, so it’s not really that high.’ While others in the low 100s are completely stressed out by what their unread count is.

This is where I talk about how Inbox Zero Worries is a good goal. Rather than getting to zero emails in your inbox, get to a point where you have a process and a trusted procedure for managing your email. If you can manage your email, and stay on top of your responses and requests, how much does it matter what your total unread count is? That’s up to you!

If you’re looking for some assistance with email management, let’s start with a Discovery Conversation to talk about your goals and challenges!

10 March 2021

App Review – Sortd

Purpose:  Sortd is a Google skin that you ‘lay over’ your existing Gmail or Google Workspace email. Instead of seeing your email in the traditional fashion, Sortd allows you to set up various columns to turn your emails into To Do’s. This option is only available with the Chrome browser. With Sortd, you can drag emails into custom lists for better organization.   The software offers a more visual way of sorting and grouping your emails at a glance.

Benefits: If you prefer to keep your action items in your inbox, this is a great way to sort and manage them. With drag and drop options, you can push that most important email to the top of the list instead of just sorting by date or sender.

Cost: Free, $6, $8, $16

Opinion: As someone who manages their tasks in folders, and their tasks elsewhere, Sortd isn’t really for me. I do like how you can change your view from Kanban board to table to a date assigned list. This allows you to customize to a view that works for you.

You can manually enter other tasks into Sortd, allowing it to be one place to manage your to-dos. However, there is no real way to enter tasks on the fly – you need to be at your email in order to do so – which makes it not as great as other, dedicated, task management apps.

Overall, Sortd is a nice alternative for viewing your action emails within Gmail. If you choose to use it, I’d strongly encourage you to watch the tutorial videos – they’ve got some great information and tips.

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3 March 2021

Is There Mystery Meat in Your Inbox?

I picked up canned cat food at the store the other day. Looking at the shelf it always seems there is at least one can, if not a couple, that are in danger of losing their paper labels. I can just imagine getting one of those cans home, then having it sit on the shelf for ages because we don’t know what flavor is inside. Could be tuna, could be salmon, or maybe even chicken. Without a label, all we know is that it’s cat food.

Email subject lines are the same way. We’ve all seen those emails that hit our inbox and say ‘Zoom’ or ‘Deadline’ or even ‘Don’t forget’. At a glance how are we supposed to know what’s actually inside those emails until we take a moment and open them up to look? And every time we go to our email we have to open that message up again because there are no clues as to what is inside. Just like that mystery meat cat food.

That’s why I’m a big proponent of descriptive subject lines in your email.  They allow you to quickly prioritize and categorize an email, letting you get back to your day that much faster. I’m talking about subject lines like ‘Zoom meeting at 7?’ or ‘Miller project deadline extended to Feb’ or even ‘Don’t forget to feed the fish’. See the difference?

I know you can’t control what other people put in their subject lines, that’s true. But who was it that said ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’? Don’t forget either, that you can sometimes change the subject line of an email before you return it. Help avoid the mystery meat emails!

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23 February 2021

Who Really Needs Email Folders?

When I talk about email management, I’ve had people ask me, “Are email folders necessary? Can’t you just use search to find what you need and keep everything in the inbox?”

Ask any two organizers, and you’ll probably get two different answers and there’s an argument to be made for both options.

Utilizing search can help you find an email quicker and more efficiently than digging through various folders. Locating everything in the inbox means there’s only one place to look. But…what do you do with action items?

Remember, all email is either an action item, a reference item, or a trash item. If you are keeping all email in your inbox, it’s easy for those action items to get lost among the trash and reference material. And if you get a lot of email, those important items can quickly fall below the scroll and out of sight often equals out of mind.

Which leaves you with utilizing folders to organize your email.

Using folders allows you to get your reference material out of your inbox and away from any action items that may be hidden. It also means that, when you do utilize search, you can do a focused search in one folder, rather than a broad search in all of your email. Having folders can allow for quicker retrieval of that one email you’re looking for.

But it does take time to create a folder structure – even a very general one – and it takes effort to process your email into those folders every day instead of just leaving them in your inbox.

So what’s the right answer?  The answer is, it depends on you. I prefer a folder structure. Even a general one is going to help you organize your email and allow you to keep those action emails front and center. Yes, it’s a little bit of effort, but one I feel is worth it in the end.

Need help getting those emails tackled? Let me know and we can figure it out together!