Your business inbox is a mess. Tips for managing your Gmail and Outlook

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You wouldn’t imagine it: your inbox has probably seen an increase in incoming messages lately. And you’re not alone if you feel buried in the mess.

The pandemic has changed the way many workers communicate, shifting most conversations to digital services like messaging and messaging platforms. And these trends don’t seem to be slowing down, especially as some companies embrace remote and hybrid working environments.

“There were a lot of communications in the office that you hadn’t thought of because they were just natural – you stopped at a desk, you caught up with someone after a meeting,” said Craig Roth, vice -president of research at market research firm Gartner. . “All the low points of the day when you were communicating in person, you are now doing it digitally.”

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Although many conversations have shifted to Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google Chat, email has long been a default form of communication for many workers, Roth said. Think of it as the Swiss army knife of digital communications, serving multiple purposes including quick messages, longer document-style notes, file transfers and link collections, he added. When it comes to workplace email providers, Microsoft and Google reign supreme, holding 85.5% and 13.7% of the global market for enterprise email and content creation apps, respectively, by share. revenue, according to Gartner. Microsoft, like other email services, says its users are getting more email after the pandemic.

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Managing your inbox can be frustrating and time-consuming. But you can control your inbox more effectively by slightly tweaking your settings and email sending habits. Here are six tips to help you.

One of the biggest problems with emails is that they all arrive in the same inbox without any organization, which makes it difficult to determine which emails need attention and which do not.

Outlook lets users create new folders, so you can manually — or automatically — file emails from specific people or related to specific topics in one place. Simply right-click on the left menu of your inbox and select “create new folder”.

On Gmail, you can also separate emails from your main inbox by moving them to your archive folder, called “All Mail”, to make the inbox cleaner.

Use rules, filters, labels and categories

Creating rules in Outlook and filters in Gmail can help you automatically organize your inbox as emails arrive. You can create a dedicated folder for emails from your boss so that they are automatically filed when they arrive. Similarly, you can have all emails using specific words such as “trial offer” automatically deleted or sent to a spam folder. On Gmail, you can configure emails to automatically receive a specific label such as “HR-related items” or on Outlook to receive a specific color category.

To do this on Outlook webmail, click on the settings cogwheel at the top right of your screen, then on rules and add a rule. Choose a name for your rule, select your rule conditions, then define the resulting action. On the desktop app, you can find rulers under the tools at the top of your screen.

On Gmail, click the gear icon in the top right, then “see all settings”, then “filters and blocked addresses” and “create new filter”. There you can set your conditions and actions.

Pin or track important emails

Some emails may require special or urgent attention. In these cases, Google and Microsoft allow you to pin or star emails for easy access.

On Outlook’s webmail and desktop app, right-click the email and choose “pin”, which will place the email at the top of the box while pinned . Microsoft also lets you use a “focused inbox,” an option in settings that will separate emails into two tabs. Emails it deems important based on your interactions and other data points will go to the targeted tab and those deemed less important will go to the “other” tab.

On Gmail, you can click the star icon to specify important messages. This allows you to use the drop-down menu above the inbox and quickly filter out starred emails. By default, Google will also place yellow tags next to emails it deems important to you based on your habits. You have the option to disable this feature.

To help you better manage the time you spend on emails, use the scheduled sending and repeating features. These features can help you stay on top of your messaging when you’re ready.

If you won’t have time later to send an important email, you can write it in advance and schedule it to be sent when it’s convenient. To do this, compose an email, then click the down arrow next to send, click send later or schedule sending and set the date and time. Both Outlook and Gmail offer this feature.

On Gmail, you can also “queue” an email to be reminded later. This will return the email to the top of your inbox on the selected date at the time. Just right click on the email and hit snooze.

Change notification settings

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to avoid being overwhelmed by email overload is to change your notification settings.

In Settings, Outlook lets users choose whether they want to see or hear alerts for new messages, reminders, and sent emails. On mobile devices, users can click on a person’s name, favorite them, and set notification settings to only alert them when those favorite people email them.

On Gmail, users can toggle their notifications to receive pings for important emails, all incoming emails, or none through their browser or mobile device settings.

Close your inbox and limit your emails

If customizing your notifications isn’t enough to escape the email madness, there’s another simple solution: close your email or turn off your phone’s notifications altogether.

“Don’t leave your emails open all the time,” says Jonah Berger, associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “Close the inbox when you want to get things done.”

Berger suggests setting specific times during the day, if possible, to actively read and respond to email rather than letting yourself be interrupted and “sucked” by email all day. Between these times, you can also use the auto-reply features to let people know that you probably won’t respond right away. On Microsoft Teams, you may want to turn off your presence indicator. Some Teams apps are integrated with email, and the presence indicator will let other Outlook users see that you’re available with a green dot next to your name.

Berger also advises training yourself to read each email only once. So only dive into your email when you have time to respond or file it in an appropriate folder for later. It also suggests unsubscribing. It may seem like a tedious task, but it will ultimately save the collective amounts of attention that irrelevant emails steal from your day.

To reduce the number of incoming emails, limit your outgoing emails, says Neal Hartman, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management. Ask yourself: does this really have to be an email, and does it really have to be sent to all these people? Sometimes a simple phone call is enough. If you must use email, keep your message clear and concise to limit back and forth.

Finally, you should experiment with your messaging limits, says Roth. Is it possible for you to have email-free Fridays? Can you turn off all notifications at 5:00 p.m.?

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