Last year I wrote an article on how to better manage your inbox so it does not take control. Yesterday I realized was not following my own advice lately and was reading this again to refresh my memory on what I should be doing. Here’s the article for those who may not have seen it…
Is your email inbox, or inboxes, as many of us have more than one, full of old received and sent emails?
There are a few easy steps anyone can follow to help take back control of your inbox and emails.
Before you get started, make a point of setting aside a specific time each day to check your email. It is so easy to become distracted by dealing with emails you lose time for dealing with other projects or work. Three times per day is plenty; unless you are in a Customer Service role and as part of your job, you may require doing this more often. A good schedule is and hour after the start of your day, an hour after lunch and an hour before quitting time.
So, what’s the system, the simple steps? We like to refer to it as:
- Dump it, if it’s junk, or not fitting into one of the following categories.
- Archive it. This means file it away if you will need to refer to it later.
- Not now, later. If you’ll need time to deal with this email later, then flag it for followup and enter a reminder, so you don’t forget.
- Get it done, now. If you can deal with it, then do so, immediately. <
Sounds easy, but in order to make this work you have to follow a few simple rules of picking which category the emails fit into.
- Use your junk email filter, and block senders you don’t want.
- Pick one joke a day to read, and dump all others. These recycle enough that you will see the dumped ones again at some point.
- Check notification settings from social networks, if you efficiently keep on top of these sites, you won’t need an additional email telling you of a new friend, connection etc.
- Dump emails that need no further followup once read.
- Instead of saving emails in your inbox or sent folder, create a word file for each client, project, etc. Anything you may need to refer to in future (you know those that you save forever, just in case!) copy and paste and save in one word file.
- Put the date as a heading for each one copied in, and then you have a chronological file of all the emails regarding this person or project. Also include the person’s email address so if needed you can copy and paste it.
- Once set up it won’t take long to do each time, and your email folders will thank you. Plus it’s easy enough to find items when needed. Use the FIND button in Word to search through the file.
NOT NOW, LATER
- If an email will require more than two minutes to answer or deal with, then you will have to make a note to do it later when you have the time, and can do it productively as part of your day.
- Using your email tools, flag it for followup and set a reminder. Most emails will then send you a reminder notice either via email or by opening a reminder box right on your desktop.
GET IT DONE, NOW
- If you can deal with the email now within two minutes, do it. No need to fill up your task manager with more reminders.
- Stick to the two minute limit, otherwise your available time will continue to shrink and shrink.
If you can follow a system like this, you will find opening your email each day less and less stressful. Your email checking schedule should be limited to about 15 or 20 minutes, two or three times per day. That’s one hour. If it takes much longer than this each day, you may want to look at hiring a Virtual Assistant to sort and organize your emails so that you can more efficiently deal with them.
Here’s hoping you can soon say, “Dang, my inbox looks great”. If that seems impossible, then give us a call and we can book a consult to see if we can help you gain more time in your workday!