An inbox that is overflowing with to do items is stressful and chaotic. When was the last time you cleaned your inbox? Do you have 4,276 emails in your inbox? How much of it is junk? Personally, when I have an overflowing email inbox, I feel scattered and disorganized. All of the newsletters, facebook friend requests, and work related items etc could take a psychological toll on you. A clean, organized inbox will help you get more productivity out of your day. Here is how you can get your head above water and begin breathing again.
- Create an actions folder or label: This folder is where you store the emails that you need to take action on. Anything other than just replying or filing should go in this inbox. Just think of your inbox as your physical desk at work.
- Pick and File the Urgent: Go through your inbox and move the 10 or 20 urgent items and file them in your new action items folder.
- Now create an Archive folder or label: Everything else outside of urgent and action items need to be checked and moved to the Archive folder. By moving everything else to this archive folder you now have some breathing room. We will get to these later.
You need to set some rules for new emails. Your new email policy should be, not to allow emails to pile up in your inbox.
1. Process your emails starting from the top: When you open your email, start from the top. Make a decision quickly and move on one of the following action items; 1. DELETE- you need to learn how to use the DELETE button liberally. 2. ARCHIVE- if you think you may want to look at this later just check and move to your archive folder. 3. REPLY- work on making your replies as short and sweet as possible. This may be more challenging in a work setting but you can give it a shot. 4. Move emails that you must take action on to your action items folder. After you have finished go to the action items folder and write those items down on your to-do list.
a. Try not to spend longer than 30 seconds on an email before deciding what to do with it. If you learn to process your emails quickly, you will be done with your inbox in no time.
b. After you have processed your inbox, then start transferring the to-do items onto your to-do list. It is important that you don’t start on the to-do items while you are processing your inbox. You could end up stuck on an item for 30 minutes and forget to finish processing your email.
c. If you plan to read newsletters, service catalogs and so on, just create and transfer these into a temp folder. I suggest you just delete them and be done with it. You are never going to read them all anyway.
Now that your inbox is more manageable, here are a few steps you need to take in order to prevent things from getting out of hand again.
1. Stop checking email so much: Try setting a minimum of four times per day to check, process, and manage your email.
2. Send shorter emails: Stop over explaining yourself and develop the skill of sending the shortest emails possible. Again this may be challenging for a work environment but you should still try. It may even be better to just pick up the phone and call rather than sending an email.
3. Stop sending so many emails: The more emails you send the more you will get. Call people or walk over to the next cubicle and address the issue in person.
4. Unsubscribe: Unsubscribe from useless newsletters, advertisements, blogs etc. If this blog you are reading now is flooding your inbox, then unsubscribe it too!
5. Mass Delete emails: This is my favorite.
6. Use 10 minute mail: Perhaps you want to review something online that requires you enter an email address. Go to 10minutemail.com and get a temporary email address that will expire in 10 minutes. Another solution is to sign up for a premium email service. I have a service with Yahoo that I pay 20.00 per year for. I can add up to 20 fake email addresses and call them anything I want.
I am sure you have some additional email tricks, please feel free to share in the comments section.