Since my translation clients are scattered across multiple time zones, as an account manager, it’s not uncommon for me to wake up in the morning to 10 or 15 emails. These may include new projects, quote requests, or queries about previous projects, just to name three. And some of them may be urgent, too! If I try to handle them all at once, the stress can be enormous. Tackling this challenge requires some sort of a system that helps me keep concentrated. Here’s what I do:
The key to winning the email game for me is to look through all the emails briefly and set priorities so that I approach them in the order that makes sense rather than simply in the order they came in or, worse, in a haphazard manner. The list of my priorities follows:
- Make necessary arrangements to begin work on an urgent project. Usually, these are somewhat unexpected projects that arrive in the morning for delivery in the evening.
- Answer the most urgent emails. This can be an email from a client who’s still at work (although in a different time zone) and is waiting for my reply. It’s especially important to reply immediately to any project proposals we can’t accept so that my client can start looking for another supplier right away.
- Confirm all the remaining new projects.
- Answer all the remaining emails.
Managing emails with folders
Another best practice for processing emails under pressure is, of course, having a system of folders that makes it easier to process emails initially and track them later. Here’s one possible option:
- Inbox: This is where I keep new emails only. As soon as I reply to an email, I move it to a different folder. I enjoy having a neat inbox because the less emails I see in there, the less stressful the task of handling them seems to me.
- Replied to, but requiring further action: When I confirm a project, I move the respective email to this folder. This way, I always remember which projects I need to move forward soon.
- Replied to, but pending a client’s confirmation: This folder includes emails about those projects that I sent an estimate for. As soon as my client gets back to me, I move the email to another folder depending on their decision.
- Replied to: Finally, when an email doesn’t require any further actions, it ends up here.
The best way to implement this system is definitely by using the IMAP protocol. It synchronizes everything you do with your mailbox across all your computers and mobile devices. If you want to learn more about this technology, read an article about how we use IMAP for collaborative work.