6 Tips on How to Effectively Manage Your Email Processing Task

6 Tips on How to Effectively Manage Your Email Processing Task

As an entrepreneur, you must manage your email processing task effectively.

You probably already struggle to manage your email accounts effectively and process your incoming and outgoing messages through your email client.

I already know I spent a lot of time reading, sending, and processing emails. But, I never thought about how much time it is as a percentage of my overall working time. Yes, every day, I work on email processing tasks. Sometimes once, but sometimes several times in a day. Whenever I look at how I process my email, I always find some possibility for improvements.

One day, I decided to analyze my daily habits regarding email processing tasks. After one week, I collected the data related to the time I spent on email processing, and the results were disappointing. I spent more than 20% of my total working time on my email processing task.

How Much Time Do We Spend on Email Processing Tasks?

Research by the McKinsey Global Institute published in July 2012 titled “Social Economy” says that the average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing email.

email processing task time spending

You will agree that too much time is spent on email processing tasks.

When I look at my account of RescueTime, I can easily see that I spend 4 hours weekly processing emails. That’s 10% of my overall weekly working time. It’s not too much, but I still think there can be a place for improvement. So, I need to do something to decrease this time and, in such a way, increase my productivity.

Rescue Time Email Processing Task Time

Because of that, I have started implementing some improvement activities that we will discuss later in this article. The results from my last week can be seen in the image below. As you can see, I spend around two hours weekly processing emails. That means I get an additional two hours of my time to spend on something else for the company or as my personal time.

Rescue Time Email Spending Time

Why and How We Use Our Email Inbox?

Before I started with the improvement steps, first, I was able to start thinking about the purpose of my email inbox. These are things related to why and how I use my email inbox.

Why do I use an email inbox?

The first thing that comes to my mind when I ask myself this question is that, in most cases, I use my email as a communication tool. So, the primary purpose of my email inbox is to communicate with different people related to my business and personal life. But when I start analyzing my Inbox, I can easily see that only 20% of processed emails are related to the most important communication.

Yes, it is only 20%. The rest, 80% of my emails, are related to non-important communication and informational messages. I get them from thousands of different sources. So, this is the first problem here. I desperately need to read the things I have subscribed to. So, today I need to click the delete button on hundreds of email messages I don’t read anymore. There is a great space for improvement.

How I Use My Email Inbox?

This is the second important question I asked myself before starting the overall improvement process. I start drawing my current working habits regarding email processing and answering additional questions. The result is shown in the image below.

Email Inbox Processing Questions for Improvement

This is a great way to see how I use my email inbox and how I spend time there. Looking at these questions and answers, I could differentiate several problems that will need to be solved, removing all causes of these problems.

Email Inbox Processing Questions and Problems

So, here I will talk about what I have done and how you can achieve the same results using the same steps I take to improve my productivity.

1. Organize Your Email Inbox

I was amazed when I paid attention to my email client of choice, PostBox (update: now I am using Spark email client), which was with over 15,000 emails. I already have different folders where I store different received emails. Still, my Inbox has too many emails that I had read earlier or marked as read. But without deleting them if they don’t need to be part of the Inbox.

Because of that, I sometimes spend more time finding the information I need when I want to find some of my emails as a reference. This was the alarm that I must do something.

First, I start by deleting all emails that I think I will not need in the future. I delete all messages as different promotional materials and emails from a different subscription list. All of them don’t contain important information for me for the future. Then, I recreate my folders for archive purposes. Finally, I assigned a topic for the important emails I think I will need to use in the future. For example, in my email client, I use home, work, personal, software licenses, outgoing payments, etc.

With such a way of organizing the folders in my email client, I can easily find what I need when I need it.

1.1 Remove reference emails in a more appropriate database

UPDATE: This was my first attempt to improve my working routine to process my email inbox. Doing this organization, I was able to have several categories of email messages that stay inside my email inboxes. This was only the starting point for improvements.

So, after several months of using my email client to search for information, I decided that it would be more efficient if I had only one repository for all my information. The first thing that came to my mind was to use Evernote (update: now I use DevonThink). So, I transfer all the messages inside Evernote. So, anytime I need something as reference information, I will not open my email client but Evernote. I will open Evernote and search for the information as I search for any other information in my Evernote account.

Today, I am using DevonThink to be a central repository of any vital information for me and my business. If it is an attachment, when I download attachments, they go inside a specific folder. There I have Hazel rule and Apple Script to delete the file after it is sent inside DevonThink global inbox. If the information is inside the written email, I print it as a PDF. So, the same folder with the same Hazel rule will send it to the global Inbox in DevonThink. After that, it will delete the file from the folder.

Hazel Rule for Email Processing Task - Email Inbox Import to DevonThink

Using this approach, I was able to clean most of the messages inside my email inbox. I now have one place (app) for information and one for email processing.

2. Limit How Many Times Daily You are Doing Email Processing Task

The second thing I implemented, which was most challenging, was keeping my email client closed all day except when I have scheduled email processing tasks.

The basic idea was that I could open an email application and start with the email processing task of receiving emails several times a day. This enables me 5 hours to work on other things without emails. So, I don’t lose important things in my work.

In such a way, my time is better organized. This process will not allow distractions when I work on other important things.

3. When You Open the Email, Immediately Take an Action

Email processing task doesn’t mean email reading. One of my biggest mistakes from the past was that after reading emails that don’t require some actions from my side and don’t need to be used as a reference for the future, I was not deleting them.

Now, I use several steps:

3.1. Read – Response – Waiting List.

This type of activity comes when I read an email that needs my response. Also, I expect to receive a response from the sender after I send my response. Because of that, this email will need to be placed on my waiting list in my to-do list manager.

With the help of the Spark email client and OmniFocus, it is easy to send the email as a task inside OmniFocus.

Send Email Message to OmniFocus

I can select the due date and give a name to the task. So, now I can easily archive the message because I can easily find the message by clicking on the link inside notes in the OmniFocus task.

Sending Email to OmniFocus as a Task

3.2. Read – Make a Task – Add Topic – Archive.

This sequence of activities is a part of my email processing task. I always implement it when the email requires some work from me and I can’t do the work immediately. Because of that, I will need to read the email and make a task in my to-do management software. Also, I will assign the topic and archive the email in the folder for to-do tasks.

The procedure is the same as in the previous sequence of activities.

3.3. Read – Response – Delete.

These activities inside my email processing task I am implementing when I receive an email that requires my response after reading, but it will not need to wait for the response from the sender. I will not need the message for future reference. So, I will not archive these email messages but delete them.

3.4. Read – Response – Add Topic – Archive.

This sequence of activities comes when I need to respond to the received email, but I will need it in the future. Because of that, I will need to add the topic and archive the email in a specific folder.

Also, because I will need the information inside the email in the future, I will send it to DevonThink, as I explained earlier.

3.5. Read – Delete.

This is when I receive an email that I only need to read. There is no need for my response. Also, I don’t need it as a reference. I will delete these emails immediately from my Inbox. So, they will not stay anywhere to bother me when I need to process some other emails.

3.6. Read – Add Topic – Archive.

This is the last sequence of activities I use when I work on email processing tasks. These emails don’t require my response, but I will use them in the future for reference purposes.

With this process inside my email processing task, I can easily manage my email Inbox to be always clean, and I will process everything.

4. Use To-Do Lists When You Work on Email Processing Task

As I mentioned above, every time I receive an email requiring some work from my side before the response, I make a task in my to-do list management software. In such a way, I can’t forget that I need to do something and send a response.

I use OmniFocus as my primary task management application. The first two sequences of activities from above (Read – Response – Waiting List and Read – Make a Task – Add Topic – Archive) will always be a part of my task management application.

5. Automate Standard Email Responses

When you work on the email processing task, many emails will need short standardized answers from your side. For example, many emails you receive will have an informative role for you. Here your answer will be a very standard answer for all such emails you receive in the future. Over 60% of my responses have such a standardized response. So, I need to type on my keyboard the same response several times a day. This is a time-consuming task for me.

Because of that, I spend one afternoon analyzing my responses and making several response templates. So I can use them in the future. With the TextExpander, I will place all those answers in my email response immediately. This is done with several clicks on my keyboard.

TextExpander Email Responses

This is a simple template where I will need to write a response, and after that, when I write “.regards,” it will paste inside the email response the lines of text as in the screenshot. But, for longer standardized emails, I have TextExpander snippets that will write the whole message after selecting some options, such as the recipient’s name or other variables inside the response.

Also, the Spark email client has its own system for email templates that can be used when dealing with the same or similar responses. I don’t use this option inside Spark because I already have built many responses inside TextExpander. But, if you don’t like to use several apps for this purpose, you can use one available.

Spark Email Templates

In such a way, you can save time when you work on processing emails.

6. Always When You Can, Use Audio Responses

The last thing I have done to increase my productivity when I work on email processing tasks is to use audio responses.

I found this strategy worth increasing my productivity. Most times, I use audio responses instead of written responses. On my iPhone, I use an application called Say It Mail It. These email responses can drastically decrease your time on email processing tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Email Processing Task

Why do I need to work on email processing task improvements?

An email is a top-rated tool for people to interact with one another and receive information and notifications. But the sheer volume of emails people send and receive makes it difficult for businesses to manage and process their emails efficiently. So, email processing task improvements could help you boost productivity and cut down on errors. For example, Gmail filters will allow you to categorize emails into folders while ensuring that only relevant emails come into your Inbox.

Why do I need to analyze how I use my email inbox?

Most of us spend several hours per week scanning and sorting through our email inboxes, searching for urgent messages related to a specific project or containing attachments we need to review. We often do this without thinking about how we’re using this time. This could mean you waste time or spend more time than you should on email.

How can you be more productive when you manage your email processing task?

You may be wondering what you can do to improve your email productivity. So what can you do to manage your email efficiently? First off, don’t try to do it all at once. Set aside a few minutes daily to read through your Inbox. This way, you won’t feel overwhelmed, and you’ll be able to stay focused on what matters most to you at that particular moment. You can also set up rules for how you process your email. For example, you could only check your email twice a day (morning and afternoon).