Email is a pain and it’s got plenty of problems, but mastering it is the mark of a pro. Here are a couple of rules, philosophies, and email hacks I’ve made a part of my routine to save time and effort.
Your Email should be just your first name
What qualifies these as email hacks? Anything that saves you the time and effort of email, is a good hack. It’s impossible to remember a professional acquaintance’s middle initial. Is it bobtsmith@ or bobssmith@ or maybe it’s just the first name initial and it’s bssmith@. Even worse is when they get truncated and it’s btsmi@. Just your first name is easy for everyone to remember: bob@. Having middle initials is a big security risk as it gives hackers a better idea of a piece of information that no one should have.
Search for UNSUBSCRIBE in your email
This is one of the best email hacks. Start unsubscribing from email lists that you didn’t want to receive any more. If an email you regularly recieve goes immediately in the trash, or you just never read them, unsubscribe! In your email program, search for the word “unsubscribe”. Then start clicking on those unsubscribe links. Occasionally, you may want to do this in your Spam folder. It will remove you from a corporate email list and cut down on some internet traffic. But be careful, some spam includes an unsubscribe button that is just used to confirm your email or make you think you’ve unsubscribed.
Automatically download every email attachment
“If This Then That” is an API clearinghouse. That means you can set up automatic action to happen on different services. This one saves every attachment sent or received to my DropBox folder.
A proper email signature will save everyone time
Emails get forwarded to other people all the time. Make sure your signature includes everything people need to contact you. I have a different signature for each email account but they all include
- my name in big, bold letters,
- links to my social media and
- professional accounts
- phone number
- a link to my website
- an email link.
Consolidate all of your emails into one program
I have three accounts; one personal and two professional. All of them are capable of being downloaded by a third party email manager like Gmail, so I don’t have to open three different email applications.
Inbox zero is the unattainable of useless email hacks: having no emails in your inbox. I’ve achieved it for a total of 3 minutes before more email came pouring right back in. I won’t ever achieve that fleeting inbox zero nirvana again. Instead, I think of emails as tasks from other people. Now I strive for an Inbox-Tasklist: every email that’s in my inbox is a task I need to accomplish. As I finish a task, it gets filed away or archived. Now, I rarely have more than a dozen emails in my inbox at any given time.
Never delete an email
With many gigabytes of online storage, there is no reason to throw away any email except for marketing and junk mail. Some client will ask you something or contradict themselves and you should always be able to go back and check. So keep it. Everything.
Use labels to keep every email ever
Labels and tags let you search through your email faster. I just have labels for each client, and rules to automatically label them when they arrive in my inbox. When I’ve completed an email task for a specific client, dismissing the email sends it to it’s properly labeled folder.
This one is just a good habit. If there is something that can be done or said RIGHT NOW, then say it. “Got it, I’ll be working on that next.” Remember that email is professional tennis. Someone sends you a message, they need to know you’re acting on it and what to expect from it.
Use a DropBox link instead of an attachment
I have a DropBox folder for every project; which means I can right click on any file and get a custom link to that file I can share with anyone! I use this email hack instead of attaching files just to cut back on the delivery time of an email, and to save storage space.
Grammarly is a browser plugin that constantly checks your spelling and grammar and offers helpful edits. Do not hit send until this gives you a clean bill of health.
Writing well is better than any email hacks
There are a lot of complaints about tone and not properly conveying meaning when writing for social media and email. It really means someone doesn’t write well. The first step to correcting that is to very explicitly state the purpose of the email. For example is it to confirm receipt, reply to a specific question, or answer questions. Don’t add superfluous material. Each paragraph should address a specific point or purpose and state it clearly.
Your Email Hacks
What systems and practices work great for you? Did you try any of these and find something better? I’m also interested in doing this same thing for my Contacts which are still a bit of a mess. Put any great email hacks or contact hacks in the comments below!