Quickly Clean Out Your Inbox

What’s your biggest workplace challenge?  Email, right?  (Okay, besides the co-worker who pops her gum while holding a loud conference call right next to you).

I can get 100 emails in one day. I can get 100 emails in one morning! Some people get more. And they just give up trying to organize them. And search in Outlook and Vista does help you find them quickly. But once I had over 4,000 emails in my inbox I decided to come up with a new system. It was just too embarrassing.

About the time I was working out my new system, another internal team asked me to come over and give them a Tips and Tricks session on managing email. They had decided to set some rules, and those rules were making people nervous. They couldn’t have more than 100 mails in their inbox, and they couldn’t send email after 7 pm. Scary culture change.

I ended up spending the bulk of my session talking about the people processes behind email management.  I brought up the idea of an email decision tree.

The key is to spend less time with each message. Think of all those meetings you go to. Needs to happen, but cut it as short as possible.

Most people handle every message several times. They look at it as soon as it arrives, they decide they can’t deal with it right now and they leave it in the inbox or move it into a folder to deal with again later.

The problem with this approach is that you read, re-read, and re-re-read the same messages over and over again. Just reading the message doesn’t make it go away. Over time, this adds up to a lot of wasted time.

I’ve read all the organizer books… well, half read them anyway. Most of them seemed too complex and would seriously damage my productivity with a lot more rules to remember. Easier way is to follow the ‘touch it once rule.’

Looks like this:

·         Read and delete it if it doesn’t need an action or answer. Yes, get rid of it!

·         Read it and answer it if you can do it quickly.

·         Read it and turn it into a task if it needs follow-up later. Just drag the whole thing over to your taskbar.

·         Read it and save it for reference using Send to One Note if you have it, or save it in a doc file and put in Word, or save it to your Personal folders to get it out of your inbox. If you have a long thread, just save the most recent one, and delete all the older ones. Use Arrange by conversation to do this.

 Try it - all you have to lose is some chaos. 


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