Every electronic device we have -- our home and office computers, our smartphones, our tablets and laptops, even our Apple and Google Wear OS watches -- have email capability built into them. As a result, it's virtually impossible to get through any day of the week without hearing that familiar background ping reminding us that there is yet one more email to check.
While some of these messages are important -- perhaps even life altering -- the majority aren't particularly important, and many of those are simply junk and can be immediately deleted.
Regardless, it takes no small amount of time to work through the constant flood of email and to decide what needs immediate attention and which do not. Here are five tips for becoming the boss of your email.
1. Know when to make it personal.
While email is a supremely powerful tool, there are times when it's better to make your communication more personal. When that's the case, cut through the clutter with an in-person meeting or a phone call or even a quick video chat on Zoom, Skype, or some other platform.
2. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Be clear and concise in your email messaging and set an example for others to follow. When addressing an email, include only those who need to receive it. If you someone needs to be aware of the content of a particular email but you don't require their response, forward a copy to them later with FYI in the subject line.
3. Prioritize relentlessly.
Some people deserve your immediate attention and some people don't. Know the difference and act accordingly. Whenever you open your inbox, scan it for emails from VIP names -- executives, key customers, team members, and so forth -- and respond to those first. Many email programs allow you to identify your VIPs (with a star or other designation) so they automatically appear at the top of your inbox.
4. Work comes first, email after that.
Instead of starting your business day working through your inbox, set aside 20 or so minutes to set your priorities for the day. Once you've done that, only then open your email. Investing focused time on your most important work first not only helps you get your job done, it will help you see which emails are most relevant to that work.
5. Don't go on and on and on.
Remember: You're writing a message and not a book. Keep your email messages short and sweet. You'll communicate your points more effectively and keep your readers more interested in what you've got to say. Guaranteed.
This article first appeared in Inc. Magazine