Warning: Following these inbox management tips will dramatically improve your work life, productivity and reduce your daily stress


The Best Email Habit - Always Process to Inbox Zero

Whenever you go onto your emails, you should always process them to zero. Don't let anything else get in the way of preparing them to zero. Zero is your goal. This one habit will help tame your inbox and will free up your day to do extraordinary things like organising the drinks after work on a Friday or prospecting for new clients.

You know the important stuff. Below I have outlined a workflow you can use to process emails and get inbox to inbox zero.

1. Open email.

2. Read the email.

3. Is action required? Y or N.

4. If Yes, will this action take less than two minutes? If yes, do it straight away. If no, add to the Action folder.

5. If no action is required does the email need to go into a folder? Yes - Add to Folder, No - Read the email then delete if unimportant or archive for later reference. Use this above workflow until you have cleared your inbox entirely then do three 45-minute email bursts a day from then on. You will have taken control of your inbox and will feel very free afterwards.

Batch Emails and then turn them off 

All emails are super talented, and you need to respond to them straight away said no successful person ever. Emails like almost all tasks should be scheduled and batched into specific times each day. Why should you do this? Emails are not that important, and 99.999999999% of the time, they can wait a couple of hours. It is just a control freak culture that keeps us checking emails, every five minutes of the day. The benefits of batching emails are threefold:

Firstly: By batching your emails into slots, e.g. 9am, 1pm and 4:30pm you can focus the rest of the day on critical tasks like business development calls and networking with candidates.

Secondly: You do not lose cognitive focus by switching between tasks. As you switch between functions, it can take up to ten minutes to get the brain into gear for the new work. That is a lot of wasted brain power and focus.

Thirdly: By having your emails batched at specific times you are saying to yourself I am the master of my time and the captain of my inbox. Now if you have to send a client or candidate a quick email, you really should do it through the CRM or ATS if they have this functionality. This will stop the temptation to deal with other emails and will also keep them tracked as well. Because if it is not followed, it is not fact!

Candidate Application Emails

This is a super quick hack. When processing your emails and you get an application from a candidate put it into a separate application folder. Why? So you can batch processing candidate CV's and applications quickly and from one location onto your ATS. This way you will not have to scramble around and will be able to promptly and efficiently deal with them without them clogging up your inbox. Quick, simple and effective.

Ignore or ‘call out’ useless emails

You do not need to be CC'd into the latest 350 birthday card emails that circulate around the company at any one time. Call them out as time-wasting. Or do what I did when I worked at a large company, I put emails from timewasters under a set rule which put them into a folder called timewasters.

You may occasionally miss something, but generally, Stacy's email about David's birthday in the Colchester office will not be worth reading. Unless you are David in the Colchester office. I may sound like an old fart. However, so much time is wasted by these emails it makes my blood boil. If you do decide to call out the time-wasting emailer, do it carefully and with tact. Do not say "Sharon this is bollocks, stop sending this stuff about the ‘buy a cake from the supermarket and pretend you baked it’ day."

Instead, say. "Thank you for keeping us all posted on the upcoming bake sale in aid of injured seagulls, however, could I be left off in future as I get a lot of emails each day and I would like to lower my email burden to ensure I am tip-top for my candidates and clients. I hope you understand." Remember it is your time and your inbox not sharing.

Templates of the Gods

Do you feel like you write the same emails time and time again? The chances are without even realising it, you are sending dozens maybe even hundreds of emails a week that are basically the same. What a waste of time, life, and energy.   

Templates are indeed a gift from the gods when it comes to emails. Now depending on your email system, it can be easy or hard to have easy-to-access templates. I personally use the GSuite application - Inbox by Google which has a handy template feature making it really simple to create and send models. If you are using another program like outlook, then this is a little trickier, but can quickly be done.

Whatever program you are using, creating email templates is a brilliant way to respond to emails quickly, and produce world-class responses that just take a click of a button. 

Once one person has created these email templates if you share them with your team the time-saving life hacking with be massive.

Call first. Email second

Always call first, email second You are a recruiter, the phone is your natural habitat. You are a lion, and the phone is your African savannah.

Email is the Atlantic Ocean. Do you see many Lions in the Sea? Okay, smart ass in the back, yes there are sea lions, but you do not often see them hunting and catching Zebra. So call, call, call. Always call before emailing a candidate, client or colleague, it will speed up the processing of emails and tasks.

In all likelihood get you a better result compared to sending an email. How can you make this work on a daily basis to really hack productivity? What if you do not get through to the person or need an audit trail?

Calling instead of emailing will really boost your productivity as you will, in a 2-minute call, be able to communicate and make progress on a wide range of tasks that would have taken a long time to send, respond to, negotiate and agree to via emails.

When calling someone if you do not get through, leave them a voicemail and then send them a quick email saying I have left a voicemail responding to this or send the email you were going to throw. If you need an audit trail, then after a call, just send a quick summing-up email that will cover (your ass) as an audit trail. Of course, if something is significant to write an email, but for 95% to 99%, a quick call rather than email will suffice.

Just Unsubscribe

Do you get a lot of emails? Marketing and round-robin-type emails. Do they waste a lot of time? Let's be honest. I bet you have loads. I do. So just be ruthless on your next Inbox Zero mission and click unsubscribe.

Be really ruthless, especially with anything that is vaguely personal in nature as each email with kill your time. For example, if you get Wowcher or other similar emails. If that email takes up one minute a day across a year, you have just wasted 6 hours of your life on bargains on toilet rolls and garden lights. Save this stuff for your personal email and just hit unsubscribe.




Do not ask for Permission in emails

Sometimes it feels like emails can be used like an instant messenger chatroom from the late 1990s. Ping, email. Ping, email. Ping, email. If you use the correct language, you can reduce and eliminate all these small time-wasting emails that take up your day. You can do this by not asking for permission in emails. So what do we mean?

How cannot asking for permission to reduce the number of emails you receive? Simply, asking for approval means that the other person has to both think through the decision and then communicate that decision to you generally in another email. So instead of asking for permission why not just say what you are going to do, at a specific time. We will give an example below to demonstrate what we mean.

Asking for Permission:

Hello Dave,

Attached is the Press Release written about the new product launch. Can you read it for me?

If it is okay, can I send the Press Release to News and Stuff?



Going Ahead without permission:

Hello Dave,

Attached is the Press Release for the product launch.

It is ready to be sent. Please read the attachment. We are going to send it to News and Stuff at three PM if we do not hear from you about any further changes.



Do you see what we mean? By not asking for permission you are giving yourself and the other person the chance to save time, energy and space in the inbox.

Your Inbox, Your Rules

The Inbox is not your master, it is your inbox, so you make the rules. You can master the mailbox, and you can create your own rules. Around the globe, slavery was abolished for the most part over 100 years ago.

However, for many people in their offices today, the 'inbox' has become a virtual slave master creating tonnes of stress and destroying productivity. However, you can change this relationship by developing rules that mean the inbox works for you.

But you have to create these rules and stick by them. Personally, I use these three rules when dealing with my inbox.

1) Process all emails until you hit inbox zero three times a day first thing, at lunchtime and before heading home.

2) Read any emails that need to be read at this minute and archive or delete them straight away.

3) Work to Inbox zero then start on my to-do list. These rules work for me. However, they may not work for you.

If you are struggling to create your own rules what we suggest is that you sit down away from your email and brainstorm what is essential and what is not essential with emails in regards to your key priorities. Once you have done that.

Pick the three rules that you think will improve your daily battle with the inbox and stick to them rigidly for 28 days and see what happens.

Have a calendar item booked in for the 29th day to review how it worked and what you may need to change.   


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