We’ve all done the email dance, labeling and filtering to get email under control. But these hacks just organize you. They don’t do anything to reduce the amount of incoming email. To get those incoming emails under control you’ll need to set some ground rules, and stick to them!

Here are some ideas to help you get your incoming email under control!

  1. Use Chat! – How many of your colleagues treat email like an ongoing conversation. Ask a question, get a response, send a one word reply… The answer is simple, just use chat! Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype give you the ability to hold a conversation without cluttering up your inbox. Plus you can keep a record of your discussion and can cut it short if you need to.
  2. Think Before You Hit Reply –  Try the three email rule. After three emails, pick up the phone. This forces others to quickly get to the point. Eventually they’ll come to understand that calling will get them a fast response. Limit your replies and pick up your phone!
  3. Schedule Emails – Don’t just check your email every ten minutes between tasks. Schedule it into your day. Set aside time first thing in the morning and give it a time limit. Let your colleagues know that you only check and respond at scheduled times. Once you’ve set parameters, set up an auto reply to respond during off-times.
  4. Reply at the End of Your Day – Read emails in the morning and only reply during the last hour of your workday. Handle urgent requests by phone or in person. This can cut down on email tag and people will wait to respond until the next day. It also gives you time to think before you reply!
  5. Make Other Forms of Communication Easier – People are more likely to use other forms of communication if they know they stand a better chance of getting an answer. Put  your Facebook and LinkedIn address in your email signature, or use widgets. Offer your phone number for a faster reply and state your communication preference whenever you can.

Email has changed the rate at which we communicate, but it can get overwhelming. By setting up boundaries and rules for email, you can remain productive while still communicating with people when you need to. Whatever rules you do set up, make sure you stick to them and let your colleagues know!