How to Take Control of Your Email
September 16, 2008
The link below leads to a special 43 Folders series looking at the skills, tools, and attitude needed to empty your email inbox -- and then keep it that way.
The problem of email overload can take a toll on your time, productivity, and sanity. While there’s no one right way to fix the problem, there is a common set of errors and problems that many people share, including a handful of terrible habits that have been reinforced by the most popular email programs.
There is a lot of truly useful information in the link below, and when you have some spare time I suggest you browse through it for yourself. But in the meantime I’ve pulled out some especially poignant pearls of email wisdom:
• If you get a lot of repeat e-mails, use templates to respond in one click.
• If an email is more than a week old, either answer it or delete it immediately.
• Trim the amount of email you do receive by opting out of mailing lists you don’t enjoy.
• Install the best spam filters you can find.
• Keep less email. As soon as a message hits your inbox, respond right away, archive it or delete it. Resist saving anything you know you don’t need or won’t respond to.
Additional strategies that I learned (when obtaining my black belt in Getting Things Done) work really well if you use Outlook as your email client. I create a number of folders that really help out, including a:
1. “Waiting for” folder: This holds sent messages that I’m waiting to get a response from. If you check the folder daily, you can easily spot emails that people have forgotten to respond to so you can email to remind them again.
2. “Review” folder: Within this folder are “one week,” “one month,” “six months,” and “one year.” Emails in these folders get reviewed at those frequencies, which really helps to keep your messages down to only what’s essential, and nothing falls through the cracks.
Finally, another key trick is to respond to email less often, even if it means checking your e-mail only twice a day. The idea is that the less often you respond to emails, the less you’ll get in return -- and ultimately this should cut down on your email time dramatically.