When you think about your email, you’re not usually thinking about people. That’s probably because you can’t really look the person you’re communicating with in the eye, and because your inbox is cluttered with emails for half-price sneakers and news digests that never get read (oh, is that just me?)
But in reality, the purpose of email is to communicate with people. Email is for giving information, swapping ideas, and making plans. Closing deals, giving support, and sharing progress.
If email is one of the main ways we communicate—and for the billions of people who work office jobs, it is—wouldn’t it make sense to put a little extra thought and care into the way we use it?
The inbox analyzer: How it works
When you take care of your inbox, you’re caring for the people you communicate with. That’s why we built the inbox analyzer. Built specifically for work email addresses, the inbox analyzer takes the last 7 days of your inbox activity and up to 1,000 conversations to give you insight into your email habits with others.
What insights can you learn in the inbox analyzer?
Busiest time of day
Busiest day of the week
Total forwards, CC's, BCC's
Total emails with your team
Total emails with customers or partners outside the business
Average email thread length
Average response time
Here's a quick peek:
Give it a go and then read on to see ways you can give your inbox a little extra care this year.
Inbox audit — what to do with your results
Once you’ve used the analyzer, you’ve got your baseline. Every good goal starts with an understanding of where you came from. Even if you’re looking like this, things can get better. So without further ado, read on for ways you can clean up your inbox and put an extra dose of thoughtfulness into your communication.
1. Use shared inboxes for group email
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: not everyone on your team should be reading emails that can be answered by one human. Switch your distribution lists to a shared inbox and save everyone significant hours (we’re talking 10 hours a week for every person at Instructure).
2. Change your mindset on internal emailing
If you’re looking at the inbox analyzer and seeing hundreds of internal messages—emails with people from the same domain as you—then there’s a good chance you’re a very collaborative worker. There’s also a good chance you could benefit from internal comments on emails, instead of emailing so much.
This is where Front flips traditional email on its head: if you need to share or discuss an email with someone on your team, you simply @mention them in the comments section below the email, and you can have an entirely separate chat conversation, in line with your email thread.
Instead of forwarding emails to your teammates with questions and information, simply comment: “Hey, what do you think of this?” And let the internal chatter happen from there. Then, if you need to write a reply together, you can share a draft and type it up together in real time, like a Google Doc.
3. Time-batch your email
Many people abide by the “only check email a few times a day rule” if they’re not in a customer-facing setting. Put it on your calendar: Email time. Even 10 minutes 3 times a day can make a huge difference if you really stick to it.
But, you don’t have to stop there. With the details you’ve learned in the analyzer, you can strategize. If you know you’re busiest with email from 8-10am on Tuesday mornings, then maybe block that time off so you don’t get a meeting scheduled then.
This means you’ll get uninterrupted time to focus on work while avoiding the anxiety that comes with turning off your email for a bit.
4. Try the OHIO method
If you’ve got hundreds of emails in your Unreplied Messages in the analyzer, then you should probably read on. When you’re in your time-batched moment of email, don’t let emails just sit around unhandled with no plan of action. That makes it harder for you to sort through and see what’s important on any given day.
The Only Handle It Once method means exactly that. When you read an email, you do something with it right away: reply, archive it, file it away, or snooze it to come back to your inbox for later. Below you can see a message being snoozed in Front.
5. Formatting is your friend
This will help with the “unwieldy email threads” metric on the analyzer—if you’re high in this area, you’ll benefit from clearer, shorter emails. If you’re still sending emails that look like a giant wall of text, you’re not doing your contacts any favors. Put the effort in the first time, and you’ll avoid questions and back and forth later.
The bullet point is your friend, especially when you have specific asks.
The numbered list is your pal, too.
Bold helps, and don’t be afraid to underline important parts.
You can tell when someone was lazy writing an email to you; it’s longer than it needs to be, you have to re-read to find what they’re asking for, and it’s not immediately clear what you should reply.
On the flip side, when someone has put care into an email, really made it simple for you to see what’s happening, it makes a big difference. When you do this with emails you send, you’ll see people mirror the behavior back to you, creating a wonderful loop of clear, concise emailing and an overall positive relationship.
6. Backspace passive aggression
We’ve all played this fun word-smithing game a time or two, and we all know the outcome. Passive aggressive emailing breeds workplace enemies. Leave phrases that carry negative connotations in the dust. When you find yourself in these moments, your best bet is to take 5 minutes, grab some more coffee, then sit back down and replace with something clearer:
“Per my last email” → skip it and ask the question again (but who actually says this?)
“Just following up” → skip it and ask the question again
“As previously stated” → skip it and ask the question again
As much as you might want to remind someone that you’ve already said something, just skip it. You’ll thank yourself later.
7. Cut out fluff and jargon
The moment you step into journalism school, they’ll tell you: adding prepositional phrases when you don’t need them doesn’t make you sound fancy. While we’re on the topic of things to skip out on, just skip out on words in general.
Leo knows. Not only will people appreciate not having to read a novel of an email, but also, you will come across as more professional. Author and journalist Rebecca Reid says email is the best place to start when you’re trying to be more assertive and up-level yourself in the workplace. Swap these:
A large number of = many or lots
At the present time = now
Due to the fact that = because
If this is not the case = if not
It’s probable that = probably
In the near future = soon
With the exception of = except
Go simple. Read our full list of words and phrases to leave out of your email.
8. Save signatures
There’s truly no reason to type your email signature every time you send an email. Instead, save a signature that you can rely on for any scenario, and you’ll save yourself a solid 5 seconds on every email. When you’re spending hours every day on email, that adds up, and your contacts will appreciate the faster response time.
9. Unsubscribe from emails on a schedule
Unsubscribing en masse from time to time is never a bad idea, so throw it on your calendar every quarter and put on your favorite podcast while you purge. Investing in this regularly will keep it from becoming totally out of hand, like dollar weed taking over your front lawn: once it’s gone too far, you might as well just start from scratch.
10. File away emails you want to keep, but aren’t urgent
This is for all the newsletters you want to read one day, promos you might actually use, and any other stuff you can’t seem to unsubscribe from. In Front, you can file these away automatically into pinned tags on the side of your inbox. That way, they’re not clogging up your real work emails, but you can go reference them easily whenever you’d like.
You can do so by clicking and dragging an email into a pinned tag, like below.
You can also create automations that will do that action for you every time depending on a trigger, like the sender, time of day, keyword, etc. Building automations is simple, and there are even templates for you to choose from if you need inspiration. Below are some automations you can build for moving messages.
11. Label your VIPs
You save your favorites in your cellphone, and the newest iPhone update lets you pin favorite text conversations to the top of your screen. Why let emails from your top customer, or your grandma, get lost in the flurry of coupons and webinar invitations? They deserve better, so make it easy for yourself to treat them like the very important person that they are.
If you’re working in Gmail or Outlook, you can create labels for emails, and if you’re using Front, you can automatically tag emails when they come in based upon the sender so they never get lost in the shuffle.
12. Use emojis when it’s classy
If your workplace deems emoji usage acceptable (and if you have to ask, then the answer is no) then why not throw a 🌟 or a 👍 in there every once in a while to spice things up? If your office isn’t an emoji place, then of course, we’d recommend sticking with words only. We’ve got a quick guide to using emojis professionally if you’re new to the game.
It’s easy to add emojis in emails in Front, but you can also communicate with emojis and emoji reactions to comments, as well as in-line Gifs. Instead of “great job!” you can react with a 👏 or in place of “thanks” you can react with 🙏.
13. Monitor your progress
If you’re using Front, you can access all the inbox analyzer analytics and many more, for yourself, and for your team. Analytics let teams see how they can improve, where to put more headcount, how to staff shifts—the list goes on.
If you want to take a closer peek at any of these features you can have for your email, then start a free trial of Front to play around with the possibilities.
Written by Emily Hackeling
Originally Published: 26 January 2021