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Mastering email

Emails can be a real problem – it can feel like all you do is deal with emails all day without getting done what you want to do.

So, here is a strategy to help you get control.

First, understand that email is not a to-do list, and should not be used at one.  The inbox is just a tray where lots of communications come in. That means emails need sorting.

To do this you need to create some folders immediately below your inbox.

We recommend these:

  • Work to be booked
  • Reading
  • Follow ups

Use the @ symbol before the name they should appear at the top of your folder structure.

So, when you choose to “do your emails” what you are actually doing is just processing them into folders. In this way you can clear your inbox down to zero and keep it that way.

When you sort your emails leave ones that can be done in a few minutes and do them immediately after processing your emails.

You can do this more than once a day so you can pick up urgent issues. Where necessary reply to people so they know you have the email and will deal with it.

Quick-wins are things you can do in a few minutes…do these after processing emails or booking time in your diary and clear them.

Work to be booked is work that needs to be scheduled. You can then file or delete the email which means this box is always clear.

Your reading folder is for newsletters and email subscriptions – consider creating rules which divert emails directly into this folder. And, this about unsubscribing from lists. You can book some time each week to reading and/or pick these up at convenient times.

Follow ups are emails you’ve sent where you are waiting for a reply. You can review this two or three times a week with time booked in your diary.

In this way you will have a clean inbox, work booked in your diary so you can manage yourself and other people’s expectations.

Let us know if it helps.

Image from Flickr by Sean MacEntee.

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