In this note I show you how I manage my email inbox . In general, people say that managing email is their main distraction and a real barrier to productivity in their daily activities. Which is a big problem given the way we currently communicate.
You might think that as a Certified Professional Organizer ® I have an elaborate system of virtual folders to classify and file all my email.
But my system for processing the daily flow of emails is pretty simple and I’m ready to share it with you right now.
This system doesn’t work for everyone , but it works fine for me and most of my clients. After using this method for a couple of weeks we reviewed the results.
During that follow-up my clients often say things like: “Now I feel totally in control and up to date with my email inbox. “ And they say they feel greater clarity and focus throughout their workday. They also claim to have gotten rid of the mania of constantly checking their email.
But I must admit that my suggestions have annoyed some people in my face-to-face workshops.
They just can’t seem to accept the fact that email is not meant to be an urgent form of communication and feel the need to constantly check their email and often have their email program open all day and turn on all the bells, whistles and pop-up notification windows that make them lose focus.
Of course I know that some jobs require you to respond to email throughout the day and that it is, in fact, your job. Or maybe you have a job in finance or real estate where the turnaround time is fast.
But, for most of us, we can accept that no one is going to die or lose income if we don’t respond instantly to email. If a matter is that urgent, chances are you’ll get a phone call, right?
My Personal Email Management System.
Table of Contents
1. I Disable Sound And Visual Notifications.
First, I turn off all notification ringers, bells, whistles, and pop-ups. This goes for my phone, the iPhone, the desktop PC, the laptop… every device. After all you are not one of those Pavlov dogs. You don’t have to jump every time a bell rings.
With the amount of email you probably receive in a day, if you have a pop-up notification on your desktop for every email that comes in, it’s no wonder you can’t focus on the task at hand or get anything done. You may even feel a little nervous or cranky with all those interruptions.
So, just try to live without sound and visual notifications for a week. See how it improves your concentration, productivity and creativity.
2. Process The Emails In Batches.
I process my email sessions in “batch” mode also known as “batch” processing. Batch processing means letting emails accumulate in your inbox so that you can process them in your next email session with the momentum that processing batches of similar tasks together brings.
Batch processing also means that you have specific times during the day to take care of your email inbox and process everything. The goal is to have a clear inbox and make a decision for each message during a session.
For the email addicts I work with, I often recommend that they try to start 3-5 email sessions per day. Then, gradually decrease the sessions to one to two sessions per day and extend the time between sessions.
In a normal work week, I usually personally check my email once or twice a day. But, there have been times when I was traveling for a week or two or was very focused on a project and barely answered the email. And, I have survived! But again, that depends on the type of job or business you have.
3. I Disconnect The Email.
I turn off my email program completely when I’m not in a “batch” session. Don’t worry, don’t miss any emails. Trust the system, the emails will be waiting for you the next time you open the mail
4. I Unsubscribe From The Newsletter That I No Longer Read.
Take about two to five seconds to unsubscribe from all those newsletters that you no longer read. Yes, it takes a bit longer to unsubscribe than to simply delete the email, but the advantage is that you will never receive them again and if you regret it, you can always resubscribe.
I think we overestimated the time it takes to unsubscribe . Last month I was getting about 200-300 emails a day. In addition, at this time of year, a lot of promotions and events of the season are soon added.
Every day I use that extra second to unsubscribe instead of just deleting emails.
I stick with the newsletters that I really like to have and get valuable content from. My emails went from about 200-300 a day to about 10-20. Awesome!
Honestly, at first I felt a little weird . Why was I receiving so few emails all of a sudden? Was it something I said? Does no one need my services anymore? But, then I remembered all the casualties I had made.
Therefore , if you think that all those newsletters that you receive are not valuable to you, do not hesitate to unsubscribe, neither do you waste time cleaning the mail, nor does the person who sends them lose theirs, without counting on what to send newsletter has a cost.
5. I Don’t Leave Pending Messages In The Inbox.
I have no pending emails in my email inbox. Again, the goal of each batch email session is to have my inbox clear and a decision made about everything in there.
In each session I “face” each email applying these 4 rules:
.If it’s going to take 2 minutes or less, I’ll take care of it. I reply to email. It’s about using the two-minute rule quoted by GTD systems.
.I unsubscribe right then and there if I no longer want to receive the publication or updates.
.I delete those emails that I’ve already read or don’t care about but want to stay on your list. I don’t want to unsubscribe, I just don’t want this particular email.
.I move emails that either take me longer than two minutes to respond to, or need more time to research before responding, to a “pending” folder.
I usually write a reminder in my calendar about what I need to do to get the information I need to reply to the email. The reason for a “to do” folder is so that your inbox is clear after each email session.
One of the biggest wastes of time is when a person constantly turns over an email in the inbox and rereads it several times because there is no distinction between what is a new email and what they have already read but needs more information. or time to respond.
6. I Think Before Filing.
I don’t have an elaborate “Reference” folder system in my sidebar. I have seen clients with literally hundreds of folders! Because? If you can do searches within the email.
Most of us don’t need to create a set of reference folders in our mail programs. This is like having too many paper file systems. Paper filing systems do not have a search function and therefore need folders.
But, as you’ve probably heard, more than 80% of those documents are never used again! The percentage jumps to about 95% of the emails! So I don’t think people should waste their time with an elaborate email folder system.
7. I Have A Couple Of Email Folders In My Sidebar.
perhaps this point is usually a contradiction of the previous point. But I have a couple of email folders in my sidebar. These are just a few folders for which I’ve created a “Rule” function in my email program so email goes directly to the folder instead of my inbox.
For example, I receive three emails a day from the media requesting articles, quotes, etc. All these emails go directly to a folder called “Media Requests”. So I can sit down and answer them in one batch.
Another example is the many emails I receive from my business account when someone purchases a product or training session. These emails don’t have to be in my inbox as they are processed automatically, but I like to write everything down on a cash flow sheet at the end of the day.
These emails go into a single folder which makes it easy to count at the end of the day. I must confess that I have added a cash register sound to those emails, in those cases the sound is not a distraction, it is a celebration and motivation .
8. I Don’t Use Flags To Mark The Importance Of An Email.
I never use the “flags” or “Follow-up Flag” that come with mail programs. I’ve worked with thousands of people over the years and these flags never seem to be a good trigger for anyone. I prefer to use my agenda or my “To Do” folder. The flags only seem to become wallpaper after a while. But, if they work for you, great!
Like I said, this system doesn’t work for everyone , but you can pick and choose which tips you like and try them out and build your own system.
As you can see I am quite passionate about taming the email beast that plagues so many entrepreneurs! I’d love to know what works and what doesn’t for you.
Instead of emailing me… leave the comments below!
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