Nobody wants to spend a lot of time managing their email inbox. Yet the reality is that we spend more time managing our emails than we really want.
The quickest way to spend less time monitoring your inbox is to implement any of these 7 hacks – each one will save you at least an hour a day.
Let’s get started taming this email beast.
Have you ever had to reread the same email two, three or four times?
You might think revisiting an email at a later point is a good idea but it’s actually the contrary. Rereading emails is a huge waste time. Especially when you have a backlog of 50+ emails waiting in your inbox.
You can easily save a lot of time by touching it once: whenever you open an email, decide right away what to do with it. You either reply, archive, move or delete it.
There is no more “I’m going to check this again later”. You touch it once and no more.
This will save you a tremendous amount of time. It takes a while to get used to doing this but once touching it once becomes habitual, you’ll instantly reap the benefits.
2. Craft Effective Subject Lines
One of the most time consuming things is to search for a specific email in your ocean of emails and you have no idea what search terms you need to use.
So what do you do? You end up scrolling through hundreds of emails and scanning for that needle in a haystack.
I remember it drove me crazy when I watched my mom search for an email. She was scrolling through pages of emails with one-word subject lines. It probably took her ten minutes before she found the email she was looking for.
The easy fix for this is to write subject lines that are keyword-rich and that describe what the email is about.
When you look at the subject line, the other person should immediately know what the email is about. That’s when you know you have an effective subject line.
This usually means that you have to stop writing one or two-word subject lines and write lengthier ones. Here are a couple examples:
Good: BBQ at Thanh’s, Saturday @ 3pm
Good: Please revise TPS report of Q2 2013
Bad: Check this
Good: PSD file for motivational desktop background
Get used to writing lengthier subject lines. They will help you and the recipient save time searching for them.
3. Learn Search Operators
Besides writing craftier subject lines, another way to save time searching for emails is to become better at searching for them.
Usually, the more search terms you use, the better results you get. It also helps when you know who the sender is and using his or her name as a search term.
Every email client has a different way of handling search. Some email providers and clients, like Gmail, support advanced search operators.
For example, I can type this in Gmail:
This will search for any email that came from someone whose name is “aaron” (not capital sensitive) and that had the keyword “bbq” in the subject line.
This page lists all supported search operators in Gmail. Some of my favorites are “has:attachment” that searches for emails that have an attachment and “” (quotes) so you can search for specific sentences.
Just learn one or two search operators for your email client and over time you’ll save yourself headaches and time searching for emails.
4. Use Pre-Defined Email Templates
If you feel like you’re typing the same emails frequently, it’s time to streamline this. There’s no point in typing the same emails over and over again.
There are two options here: use canned responses or text expansion software.
Canned responses are emails that are stored within your email client that you can re-use anytime you want. Think of them as templates of emails that you can use over and over again.
The way they work within email clients differs per client but I’ll use Gmail as an example. Within Gmail, you have to first enable this. Go to the Gear Icon (top right) > Settings > Labs.
Then enable the Canned Response feature. Now whenever you’re composing an email, you can save the email as a Canned Response and then re-use it again for future emails.
If you never heard of TextExpander before, check this video to see how it works:
After that, check out our article on how to use it the right way.
Whichever option you pick, set aside some time to create your templates. The 15 minutes you invest in this will literally save you hundreds of hours.
5. Get Yourself A Junk Email Address
A simple way to deal with less email is to get a secondary email address that you use for junk purposes.
When you use two separate email addresses, you’ll avoid having important emails mixed with unimportant emails. It will make it less likely that you miss out on important emails and when you login on your primary email account, you know that you only have to deal with important emails. The rest are in your junk account.
For my personal email, I use it for:
- family and friends
- bills (phone, electricity, etc)
- purchases (air fare, shopping, etc)
- high-quality newsletters (join ours!)
- any personal and sensitive service (banking, law firms, etc)
For any other purpose, I’ll use a junk email address. I’ll use them for:
- signing up for forums
- websites that want my email address but I know I won’t visit again
- low-quality newsletters
I login maybe once every two weeks on there to check up if I missed anything. There’s no need to use Inbox Zero for this email address – that would be a waste of time.
Get another email address and start separating the emails you receive.
6. Setup Filters
An advanced way to get your email under control is to use filters.
I wouldn’t recommend this to everybody because it’s quite advanced, but if you like tooling with your email client, this is worthwhile implementing.
My current filters have literally saved me headaches and thousands of hours. Again, it’s quite advanced and not suited for everyone but at least check it out to see if it’s something you can implement.
7. Use These Two Automation Services
The last hack is to use automation services that will help you manage your email.
I’m talking about unroll.me and Sanebox. Unroll.me (free) will help you identify all the newsletters and email subscriptions that you are subscribed to. With just a couple clicks you can unsubscribe from them so that you get less emails in the future.
And as we have written before, less emails in your inbox means less time managing emails.
Another service we like is Sanebox. Essentially Sanebox is a service that implements filters for you (see previous tip) that will ensure only truly important emails make it to your inbox. All other emails will go into separate folders.
It’s a paid service but if you can’t implement email filters then Sanebox can help you. I know tons of people who use it with great satisfaction. It’s truly a lazy way of managing email but very effective.
Get Email Under Control Now
There you have it – seven tips that will save you at least an hour a day managing your email. I suggest you slowly implement each tip and before you know it, you’ll be spending less time going through your inbox and spend more time reading books in the park (that’s what I like to do).
If you need some assistance managing your inboxes, we’re here to help! We’ve actually developed our own system for dealing with email called the “AE Email Workflow”. If you want to know how it works, we’ve put together a few resources that you can download for free as part of our “Inbox Zero Toolkit”.
The Inbox Zero Toolkit includes several valuable resources:
- AE Email Workflow Diagrams explaining how the system works
- 5-minute video on how to implement the AE Email Workflow
- List of recommended email clients (for Mac & PC)
- Recommended folder structure
If you’d like to receive these free resources and start taking control of your inbox, just let us know where to send it to:
Discover the 1 Lifehack of Highly Successful People
This one lifehack led to the biggest breakthrough of my career. People like Steve Jobs and Oprah have used it to catapult their success, and now you can too.