What’s your best email productivity tip?

Increasingly, we spend more of our time in our inboxes these days and as such being productive with email has become vitally important. I’ve picked up a few ideas recently, most notably Delay 2 minutes, avoid looking like a jerk and Don’t send that attachment! but I wanted to see what the general public thought.

Over at LinkedIn Answers, I posed the question, “What’s your best email productivity tip?” and got a lot of great responses. I was also lucky enough to get picked as the Question of the Week, where the previous winner was Bill Gates. I’m sure we’ll do lunch soon 8).

There were a lot of tips along the lines of folder use within your email client of choice. Sheilah Etheridge responded with an interesting idea using color coding:

“I use a lot of folders so I can always find what I am looking for. I also color code people so I know at first glance if it is work, personal or other. This is very helpful when you get both work and personal emails from the same person. You can see immediately what is a priority.I also Move everything to its folder once it has been dealt with. There is never anything in my inbox except those items which still need to be addressed. I also try to reply within a day or two max and within a day if it is business related.”

Robert Lynch suggests a way to avoid becoming distracted as new messages come in:

“My best tip: Turn off automatic notification of new messages.Instead of switching to my e-mail program every time my computer goes “ding,” I can keep concentrating and getting stuff done.”

A tip I first read about in Send – The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home was offered by Anita Bruzzese along with another about early morning habits:

“Two things: Say ‘no reply necessary’ in order to stop the replies that say ‘thanks’ or ‘that’s great.’ Next, don’t check e-mail the first hour that you’re awake. Use that time to exercise, have a nice cup of coffee with a partner or simply breathe deeply and have a nice shower. Getting sucked into e-mail that early will only make you feel deluged all day. You only have one chance to start your day off right, and that means staying away from such a time suck!”

Steve Patrizi came up with a drag and drop technique:

“I’m a big user of the drag-n-drop capabilities in Outlook: I drag a message to the calendar icon, which opens up an appointment with the complete message included in the body of the appointment. This way, if the email is something I need for a meeting, I have all of the information there. I do the same thing with Tasks, which is actually a nice way to keep action-required emails out of your inbox and in your task list.”

And, finally, Chris Carpinello shares my love of GTD:

“Without a doubt, the largest email productivity improvement for me was adopting David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD). My inbox used to overflow with hundreds of messages. Every time I opened it, I felt mentally drained rereading the same things over and over again. It was so taxing at times it would take me 20-30 minutes to mentally shift gears and get back into the flow. Now I empty my inbox everytime I process it. Messages get filed for reference or deleted, delegated to others, responded to immediately if it takes just a few minutes, or moved to an action folder. I can work out of my action folder and know exactly what needs to get done.”

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