Everyday I get 50 work emails on average from various people for various concerns/projects. And I send an estimated 20-30 emails per day. If I just focus on replying and sending emails, I would have consumed my entire eight hours already and not able to attend to the multitude of my other project management tasks.
After falling prey to loads of emails, where I felt the load was too much and I spent a lot of time with them, I’ve learned and developed ways to better manage my work emails. Doing these techniques helped me get better results in terms of replies to my emails, prioritize which ones to reply to and so on.
I hope these tips will free you up from email nightmare and be able to focus on more important aspects of your work! 🙂
Outlook Email Tips
1. Prefix email subjects
We ourselves receive numerous emails and we often depend on who sent it and the subject to know which ones to answer first.
a. Prefix by project type
As a project manager, my work unit is project and I handle multiple projects. To help the recipients know which concern I’m referring to in the email and also to avoid confusion, I prefix my emails by project. When they receive my emails they can easily sort the project-related emails because of the subject prefix I placed.
Subject: [Project X] Code freeze and other updates
Subject: [Project Y] Minutes of the meeting
b. Prefix by expected action from recipients
We can also help the recipients know quickly what we need from them in our emails by indicating in the email subject prefix what they need to do.
Suggested Prefixes for various types of emails:
[FYI] – you don’t expect any reply from them
Ex. [FYI] No work on August 5, declared holiday.
[Reply required] – you expect a reply from them
Ex. [Reply required] Component versions of Project X
[Action required] – there is an action item for them in the email
Ex. [Action required] Complete employee evaluations
2. Put reminders to emails
Reminders put alerts to emails based on the date you specified. You can do this two ways, a reminder to the sender and a reminder to the recipient.
a. Reminder to sender
This is best used when we receive emails that are not urgent. However, since they’re not urgent there is also a risk of forgetting about them. To avoid this, we can put a reminder to ourselves for that email and we’ll get alerted for that email on the date and time we’ve set in Outlook. Here are the detailed steps:
To set a reminder to reply to an email message:
1. Click the Mail icon. (Open a new pane if not visible.)
2. Click on the Inbox folder in the Favorite Folders list.
3. Right-click on a message for which you’d like to set a reminder.
4. In the Follow Up menu, select Add Reminder.
5. Make a selection from the Flag To dropdown menu.
6. Select a date, time, and reminder (if you wish) from the following dropdown menu. I suggest setting it days prior the deadline (depending on the preparation needed) you need to reply (or submit something) so that you’ll have ample time to prepare and avoid cramming.
7. Click OK to add the reminder.
8. When reminder message applies: Click Dismiss to close the Reminder dialog box and not show the reminder again in this Outlook session. Click Snooze to display the reminder again at the time designated in the Click Snooze To Be Reminded Again In text box. Click Open Item to launch the email message to which the reminder is associated.
b. Follow up for the recipient
When we send emails it would be ideal to assume that the recipients would reply promptly. But since everyone seems to be busy, it is hard to assume we’ll get the reply we need just like that. What usually happens from my experience is that people either forgets to reply and I have to send a follow up email or if they do reply, it’s late. Both situations are counter-productive that can affect our own performance. We can help our email recipients remember to reply by adding a follow up flag.
Here are the steps to set a Flag to Recipients reminder in the emails we send:
1. Add a flag to a message
Do one of the following:
- In an open message, on the Message tab, in the Options group, click Follow Up, and then click a flag.
- In a message list, such as your Inbox, right-click the item, point to Follow Up, and then click a flag on the shortcut menu.
2. Add a flag with a custom date to a message
- In an open message, on the Message tab, in the Options group, click Follow Up, and then click Custom.
- Check the Flag for Recipients option
- Choose from the Flag to: drop down menu the type of reminder you want for the email recipient.
- Check the Reminder option and set the Date and Due time for the reminder
- Click the OK button and then send the email.
As long as the recipient keeps the message in his or her Outlook mailbox, a reminder will be displayed at the time you specify which hopefully will result to them replying promptly.
… more tips to follow. 🙂