We’ve all felt the pressure as working interpreters to follow our inbox closely, monitoring each email that arrives for a potential slot that holds that perfect gig. Truthfully, email can be really detrimental to our self care. In a 2021 survey for Superhuman researchers found that email fatigue was the cause behind 38% of workers resigning from their positions. Email literally exhausted perfectly fine people out the door. 

According to analysts at inc. the average professional spends four hours a day dealing with email. If you’ve worked a day as an interpreter, you know we do not by any means have an average relationship with our inbox. If the average professionals are experience burnout from the fatigue, enough to leave their positions… it’s suddenly quite understandable that interpreters feel the panic too. Our inboxes and their efficiency are often the number one indicator of our income. When tied to agencies that require instant response times through the week it often feels like a catch 22. I can’t stop checking my email and work but I don’t have work if I stop checking my email. 

The great news is, with a little attention, you can make the dealings with email much more efficient, less chaotic and an overall less stressful experience through the week. Check out our tips for making the best of a bad inbox. 

Make rules for yourself: 

If you’re finding yourself with more work than you know what to do with, consider scaling back how often you check your email. Inform agencies that you’ll respond to job requests at 9am and 4pm or perhaps just once through the day when it works for you to schedule. This way, coordinators will keep in mind that your absence of a response doesn’t merit a denial to the gig but instead, they should wait until the next time you’ll run through your schedule before they move down the list. If you’d like to stay connected for last minute jobs you might be able to fill, set a rule to notify you only if [URGENT] is found in the subject line.

Last minute flagging

If you’re only interested in screening for last minute work as you’ve been booked on an ongoing gig, flag text phrases like “last minute”, “urgent” & “today” if that’s what you’re seeing in the subject line. Find out how agencies send those out, if they’re marked as urgent you can set up your inbox to notify you when they come in or sort them to a specific folder you check more often.

Email fatigue and urgency blindness

It’s easy to feel the effects of email fatigue and often not notice it. When the little red indicator number keeps climbing and you stop caring, it might be worth it to consider only looking at the urgent emails. Keep specific email addresses on a list to make it to the top of your inbox so that you can focus on what matters.

Email alias

A little known tip I use for email is an alias address. It feeds into my regular inbox but has a more urgent handle to it. I give it out to agencies that I know I can trust with jobs that are fitting, last minute or of a particularly sensitive nature. Using that email address, they can be sure it reaches me first (often before a text) and that if I’ve been neglecting responding to other email asks, they will get one there. I’ve used it for a few years and love it, I’ve only ever had to ask someone to use the correct email address once. 

Have an unsubscribe party

Ever been bored on a bad date? Stuck on the train? Staring out the window in traffic? Have an unsubscribe party. Every once in a while between jobs I like to throw on some abba and go for the first corporate newsletter/offer email I’ve got then choose subscribe. Once you’ve done one, you’ll find yourself doing more and more. 

We often say we’ll relegate a specific email address for work related email only but somewhere down the line we find a promotional list that bleeds over to the professional side. We concede on one email list and before we know it, emails for free cruises are wedging their way between job confirmations. It happens, to literally all of us. Keep in mind that avoiding spam in your inbox is a constant battle that you can win by making a habit of clicking unsubscribe when you’ve got a free second here and there.

Search and delete en masse

Find the email address responsible for the junk you just don’t need and search it in your mailbox then select them all and let them go. Of course it gets complicated when that address also sends you good stuff so you might want to just search by specific subject line content. 

What do I do with old agency emails?

You’d be surprised how many times I’ve gone back for information that was in an email from two or more years ago. Sometimes I need to prove a point and others, I need proof in writing the agency agreed to something specific. I recommend categorizing the documents and offloading those to a separate folder as a backup. Losing a contract can be a dangerous game. However, if it’s eating up your email storage, delete the fluff. Inquiry emails don’t stay in my inbox for longer than a month. I only keep them that long to see if I’ve been asked about the job before. If I see it’s been through 8+ interpreters in the last 7 days, I might have some additional questions for the coordinators before accepting. 

Any conversations you’ve had with the agency that contain any potential to impact future business should be kept. I use old emails when preparing to submit a new rate increase the most often but sometimes it’s just to remember a gig I did that really saved them if I need a favor. 

How long should I keep confirmations?

I keep old confirmations for the entire fiscal year prior in a folder (FY2020) Once I’m past the following year (FY2021), I delete the whole folder and get a gig or so back.

What do I do with timesheets, invoices and other bills?

Timesheets – a full fiscal year. You’re under no obligation to keep these however. I am incredibly annoyed that they are ever used in our field and crusade to get rid of them every chance I have. However, you could find yourself wanting them if at the end of the year the agency gets audited and has questions. Though, if you’ve submitted them and they lose them, it’s not on you. You’re more than welcome to tell them to get lost, your inbox was full. If you do have them and can get them out of a jam, you’ll be a hero. Remember that rate increase you were considering? 

What do I do with my receipts? 

Throw them in a folder. You can add subfolders for month/quarter/category etc… but I find it easier to sort them in Airtable and just keep a record of them in a separate inbox. A folder works fine for these things but if your inbox is tight, you can set up a separate trash email account for them.

I have a separate email I use once a year, it’s basically a trash can. When I get a receipt emailed to my work email, I just forward it to said inbox, add the info to my Airtable then delete the original. If I can texted a square receipt I need to keep, I screenshot and forward it. I delete the photo once I’ve added the numbers and details to my Airtable.
At the end of the year, I have all the receipts I need. I can quickly run through and pop them into Airtable or when I get a second through the year, I can add them bit by bit. It might not be your thing but it certainly keeps my inbox clean.

With a little bit of attention to the setup of your inbox, you’ll find yourself working smarter, less annoyed and far more efficient than you might expect. 

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