Email is probably one of the best time-saving tools invented but if mismanaged it can become a serious stressor. Fortunately, smart attorneys have a few tricks that anyone can use to manage their email and avoid inbox chaos. Using Smokeball’s Email Management feature is very beneficial when it comes to helping small law firms as it houses every single email sent and received and then files each directly to its specific matter.
Empty Your Inbox—or Not
Getting your inbox down to “no mail” is a lofty and admirable goal. However, it may not be possible or feasible depending on your work habits and needs. But even if you can’t get down to zero mail, consider these tricks for getting rid of most of your emails.
Touch It Once
Once you open your email account, make a habit of touching a message only once before deciding what you’re going to do with it. Don’t just look at your email message and then pass over it to go to the next thing. Look at the email, read it, and decide what to do with it next.
Create a system. Every attorney’s inbox needs are different. If most emails are something you simply need to read and respond to, then a read/respond/archive system may work well. However, if your inbox has a lot of emails that require you to do a little research before responding to it, a system of read/label/forward/respond/archive may be better. There’s no single inbox system that works for every lawyer so you must consider your unique needs.
Integrate with Your Existing System
If you have practice management software, you should integrate your email system with it so that you can attach emails to relevant matters immediately upon reading them. This can shave hours off the time you spend on emails over a single year.
Don’t worry too much about having an empty inbox, the goal is to have a well-managed inbox that doesn’t become a time drain.
Use Your Calendar
Tasks that don’t get scheduled don’t get done. This simple truth applies almost always to email issues that require your follow-up. If you open an email that requires you to respond at a later date or after you’ve done some research, it’s important that you immediately add the email to your calendar so you have an exact date and time when you will respond. Many email programs allow you to schedule calendar events with a click of a button.
Use the Search Function
A good email system will allow you to search for messages by using keywords or email addresses. Even if you haven’t zeroed out your inbox, you can easily find old messages using the search function. And in some cases, you can specifically search, “sent,” “received,” or other types of email by groups or labels. It’s also important to note that you can use advanced search options to find specific phrases and words inside the text of the email message you’re looking for.
Getting a handle on your email can help you save many minutes in a workday and ultimately hours throughout the year. And for an attorney, that time can add up to thousands of dollars in billable time.