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CL #16 – Maximizing Productivity: Simple Strategies for Taming Your Inbox

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In our current working environment, we are expected to be on top of our emails all day. This type of context-switching can often hinder productivity and reduce our ability to finish important work.

While living in a world without email would be interesting, the reality is that we need to manage it better, so it doesn’t become a burden.

As an engineer, you likely receive a significant amount of emails daily. Between client emails, team communication, and updates from managers or supervisors, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of emails in your inbox.

person typing on computer keyboard
Photo by Oleg Magni on

However, managing your inbox can be a manageable task. Here are five tips to help you better manage your email inbox and improve your productivity:

Use Filters

One of the most effective ways to manage your inbox is to use filters. Filters allow you to automatically sort incoming emails based on various criteria, such as sender, subject, or keywords. Not only will it clean your inbox, but it will also allow you to keep emails grouped by topic and thus reducing context switching.

Set Specific Times for Checking Emails

Rather than checking your inbox throughout the day, set specific times for checking and responding to emails. Emails generally do not require a faster response. This approach can help you focus on other tasks and reduce time checking your inbox.

The One-Touch Approach

The “One Touch” approach to email is a productivity technique developed by Tiago Forte to help people manage their email more efficiently and save time. The method emphasizes the importance of only touching each email once, meaning that once you open an email, you should act on it immediately instead of leaving it in your inbox to deal with later. The four-step process involves reading and taking immediate action on the email, dealing with it quickly if possible, and moving it out of the inbox once the action is completed. The One Touch is key to reducing the time spent on email by eliminating the need to constantly re-read and re-organize emails and encourages the use of filters, labels, and keyboard shortcuts to improve email management further.

Unsubscribe from Unnecessary Emails

If you're receiving too many emails that aren't relevant or important, it can be helpful to unsubscribe from those email lists. This can reduce the amount of clutter in your inbox and make it easier to manage. Take a few minutes to review your subscriptions and unsubscribe from those not adding value to your work.

Use Canned Responses

If you frequently receive similar types of emails, consider creating canned responses that you can quickly copy and paste. I always use it to update emails or requests for collaboration. You can improve your response time and reduce your time writing emails by using canned responses.

And that it… five simple ideas to better tame your email and gain back a few hours every week.

These simple email practices will allow you to put more time into meaningful and valuable engineering work. Email will still be part of your day-to-day, but by managing it better, you will reduce stress and ultimately boost productivity.

You can gain control of your time and increase efficiency by using filters, setting specific times for checking emails, adopting the one-touch approach, unsubscribing from unnecessary emails, and using canned responses.

The best way to start is by picking and implementing one of these practices today. You don’t need to go for the home run, but start simple and add other email management principles as you go.

Remember, managing your email inbox can be a manageable task; taking control of it before it takes control of you is essential.

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