Picture of Michael Lee

3 email rules to manage email

Written on June 6, 2021

With work email, I’ve worked to create a system to keep my inbox manageable and prevent it from becoming overwhelming.

The system comes down to three rules to manage my work email.

Email only when you decide it appropriate

This is a rule that I learned from using the app Tempo.

When setting up Tempo, it asks you to set up a time when you’d like to review your email.

This is a good ritual as you designate when you will interact with your email, instead of your email taking up precious mental energy and time.

A good way to enforce this is to set time blocks on your calendar.

I have one short block in the morning. This is to check that there isn’t anything urgent that my team needs from me that day.

I also have one time after lunch and then a time before my end of day routine.

After lunch is a good time as I’m trying to get back into the swing of work mode.

30 minutes before my end of day routine is good because, I’ve usually expended my energy for the day and I can spend the time sifting through email and putting them into place where I can deal with them appropriately the next day.

Delete, todo or reply

During my designated email blocks, I’m doing one of three things. I’m either deleting the email because I don’t need to do anything with it. This could be updates from our task manager or emails from services that I don’t need to take any actions on.

If the email is something I need to take action on and it takes longer than two minutes to respond to, then I will add a label of todo and archive the email.

What this does is puts the email in a different part of the screen.

Finally, if the email that I’m reviewing is something I can respond to and take action on and it takes less than two minutes of my time. Then I will reply to it.

If I’m expecting a response back, I’ll add a label of awaiting reply, otherwise, I will archive the email thread altogether.

Capture todos outside of the inbox

Finally, once I’ve gone through the review process, I’ll review my emails that I’ve labelled as todos and will move them to my task manager.

What this allows me to do is move my actual todos to a task management software called Jira. I rather handle work that needs to be worked on outside of email because there’s more visibility for the team that I work with.

Also, I’m able to build context around the task. Using things like comments, linked docs and other todos.

I find that more powerful instead of trying to do work in my email in deep threaded conversations.

How I manage my work email

Using these three rules is how I’m able to keep my work email managed as an IT manager.

It isn’t perfect, but it’s a system that works for me.

There was a time when email would cause me anxiety and got to a point where I was extremely behind in my email thus my work obligations.

By coming up these rules, I’m able to breeze through email and manage it instead of email managing me.

Stay in touch

Thanks for reading this article. I'd love to stay in touch and share more tips on programming and side projects with you. Sign up and I'll send you my articles straight to your email, you'll also get a free copy of the light themed version of my Git cheat sheet.
Git cheat sheet preview image