Managing e-mail is an important skill in today’s workplace, and not having a good strategy for it can be a source of frustration not only for you but also for the people you work with.
One of the strategies that I have developed for a stress-free inbox uses Outlook conditional formatting to automatically color-code my e-mail. (Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to do this in Gmail). With color-coding, I am very easily able to prioritize which e-mails need my attention first. This is my color code, but any version that makes sense for managing your e-mail will work:
- Magenta—Messages from my boss. She will be expecting a quick response to whatever she has sent me, so I answer these first.
- Bright Blue—Messages that are sent only to me. If an e-mail has been sent to me and me alone, it often contains important information or requests that are best dealt with quickly. I don’t want these messages to get overlooked, so I handle these as soon as requests from my boss are complete.
- Black—Messages that are sent to me and other recipients. I read these, but only after I have dealt with messages in the first two categories.
- Grey—Messages that I am only copied on. Many of us get copied on hundreds of emails that are good to have for our archive, but aren’t necessarily important to read. I leave these for the end of the day, and if they aren’t read by the time I go home, I ruthlessly archive them.
Conditional formatting can be a useful tool however you strategize and prioritize your e-mail management. See if color-coding can help you establish a low-stress method for managing your e-mail too. It won’t only help you. It will also help the people who are trying to communicate with you.