Achieving “Inbox Zero”: Email Management Tips
Ever send an email to your colleague across the hall rather than
picking up the phone? Sure, we all have. And, while the telephone
is not by any means obsolete, email has become a primary means of
communication for many attorneys. As such, we are bombarded by a
stream of emails 24/7. Without a good workflow to sort, organize
and respond to emails, you will easily be overwhelmed and end up
interrupting important billable work time.
"Inbox Zero" is one method to handle the stress
that accompanies the constant barrage of emails. The system is
based on an "out of sight, out of mind" concept. By quickly taking
a simple action to remove an email from your inbox, you should in
turn spend less time agonizing over each and every email. Those
actions include: deleting, delegating, responding, deferring and
doing. Ideally, once you have taken an action, that email has
either been handled or filed away for another day.
Achieving Inbox Zero begins with a good email client. A few
popular options include Google Gmail, Microsoft Outlook and Mac Mail. Second, you should set up a system of
folders within your email client. You might create one folder for
messages that need a later response and another folder for messages
that need some action. Therefore, when you receive an email during
the course of the day, you can either respond immediately (and
briefly) or move it quickly to your "respond later" or "take
action" folder for handling at a later time. You might also set up
separate folders for any mailing lists or listservs and configure
your client to automatically filter those emails directly into
those folders, thus bypassing the inbox. Again, with less mail in
your inbox, the less time you will spend focused on email
throughout the day. Once you've set up your folder system, turn off
email notifications, close or minimize your email client and
schedule time to check your email rather than be interrupted each
time you receive an email.
For even greater efficiency, you can use the clients themselves
and third party apps/plugins to automate email management with
Gmail, Outlook and Mail. A solution like SaneBox, which
can be used with any email client, automatically prioritizes and
sorts email, among other features. While there are many, a couple
of third party plugins for Outlook include Reprise Mail,
a "smart" mailbox that automatically sorts mail into tabs, such as
Priority, VIP, CCs and BCCs, and Low Priority and SnoozeIt, which enables you to hide a message
from the inbox for a specified time. Gmail has a couple of options
for sorting email, including its Priority Inbox feature, which splits your inbox
into sections for "Important and Unread," "Starred," and
"Everything else," and customizable tabs to sort emails into a
Primary mailbox, Social (for all social network emails), Promotions
and more. Mac Mail offers a smart
mailbox feature that gathers and presents a list of emails that
meet certain conditions (i.e., contains the word "Massachusetts Bar
Association") and a VIP mailbox for email from certain people that
you designate as VIPs. There are also third party email management
tools like MailHub that can be used with Mac Mail.
Tip courtesy of Heidi Alexander, Law Office
Management Assistance Program.
Published April 24, 2014
To learn more about the Law Practice Management
Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members,
contact LPM Section Chair Cynthia E.
MacCausland or Vice Chair Damian J.