Simple Way to Get Your Email Under Control

email, e-mail, control, organizationEmail, like any powerful tool, can be a blessing or a curse. It is a huge productivity enhancer, but when it gets away from you, it’s a severe occupational hazard.

Managing a flood of email messages is a growing challenge for many people. Getting a grip on it with a good systematic approach is critical for staying sane.

Controlling email involves the same challenge as managing your physical in-basket -- too much stuff that you don’t have the time or inclination to process and organize as it comes in.

Here are some basic procedures that commonly work for everyone:

  • Use the DELETE key. Deleting everything that you don’t really need, as you encounter it, is crucial to managing the flood.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you’ve let emails pile up, purging is the first thing to do.
  • File! Use a simple storage system for stuff you want to keep as archives and support information.
  • Complete the 2-minute ones. Anything you can deal with in less than two minutes, if you’re ever going to do it at all, should be done the first time you see it.
  • Organize emails that require action and follow-up. A simple and quick way to get control is to create two more folders in your navigator bar -- “Action” and “Waiting For” -- and file them accordingly.

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.

One of them is the “Waiting For” folder. Any email I send to someone I drag from the Sent folder to this folder and it stays there until the person responds or I delete it. The trick is to check the folder every day. Frequently people forget, so I can email them again to remind them. This trick has really helped my efficiency.

I also have a “Review” folder that holds subfolders of one week, one month, six months and one year, in which I store emails that I review at those frequencies. This is really a great strategy to help remove those emails out of your inbox, knowing they won’t get lost.

All this takes time and mental energy. But pretending that you can get email under control without dedicating the necessary personal resources to do it leads to frustration and stress.

For even more great tips on organizing and taking back control of your work space, see my Related Articles below.

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