Does your total inbox message count number in the thousands? Is it your defacto place to keep every email you’ve ever received? If so you’re in good company. Most of the people I know simply accumulate every message they recieve in the inbox and when it becomes necessary to find something important they use the search feature to find it. I approached email management this way for years.
The problem is that doing things this way means you can easily miss something important. It slips past the first page of your email list before you’ve seen it and then it’s as good as gone.
Oh yes, you could scroll down your list of email and read it but the sheer volume of messages is like a heavy weight on your motivation, discouraging you at every step. So what do you do?
I finally figured out the best approach for me when I read Getting Things Done by David Allen. This super simple technique has salvaged hours of my time on a weekly basis. Here are the steps:
- Create three folders in your email client:
- @Action Needed
- @Waiting For Someone Else
- Start going through your inbox and filing your messages into one of the folders above. It’s even more efficient if you delete messages you don’t have any use for.
- Once you get your inbox to zero pick a regular time or two each day to go through your inbox and file each message appropriately. Shoot for having a clean inbox at the end of each day.
- Set up a regular time to review the items in your action and waiting for folders. Once these are resolved, file them in the repository or delete them.
That’s it. The hardest part is getting things sorted the first time. From then on the effort is much less. Try this out for a week and you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your productivity.
Question: How do you manage your email?