If you are like me, you receive a LOT of email. In my case, I receive hundreds of emails each day (not counting Spam) and if I’m not careful, it can get a bit overwhelming.
Some people believe in checking email once or twice a day and have the belief checking it more often interferes with the rest of the work. However, others (like myself) are dependent upon email as a primary means of communication and see the emails as they come in.
Without a doubt, one of the best things I purchased was a second monitor for my desk. This allows me to have whatever I’m working on display in one monitor while my email is displayed on the other monitor. At any given time I can glance over at my email and see if something came in that needs to be dealt with immediately. This way, I can see the email, make a quick determination of whether it needs to be addressed right away and if needed read it and reply without ever losing site of what I was working on.
The second part of managing email is the use of folders (or in gmail, labels). When I see peoples email programs (whether it’s Outlook, Eudora, AOL, or one of the webmail programs) and see hundreds or even thousands of emails in their inbox, I just assume they are extremely disorganized and most likely not dealing with things the way they should.
The way I manage my inbox is I think of my inbox as my “to do” list. When the email first comes in, I will scan it to determine if it needs to be dealt with right away. As soon as I deal with it (which might mean read it, reply to it, do some other action) I will file it in a folder. Everything that is filed has been dealt with and is now being stored for future reference (I save almost all emails just in case I need to refer to them in the future). This means that every email in my inbox still needs something to be done. I might have replied to them but am waiting for a further explanation before acting upon the email or it might be something that just needs to be read but every email in my inbox needs some type of action.
Each day, before I end work, I will scan my inbox to see which of these items need to be followed up on immediately. If I have an email that I’m awaiting a reply to, if I have been waiting an extended period of time, I will resend the request. If I’m waiting for any type of action before dealing with an email, if the wait is longer than expected, I’m going to see what needs to be done to speed up the process.
At any given time I might have 100 emails in my inbox but if I notice that number starts to grow, I will spend additional time clearing them out. This might mean spending one evening catching up on reading emails or it might mean replying to emails that aren’t time sensitive (keeping in mind there is a difference between an email not being time sensitive and one that is being ignored and just because something doesn’t have to be replied to right away doesn’t mean it should be ignored completely).
Keeping control of my inbox is just as important to me as any other “to do” list. It’s something that must be done on a daily basis and if ignored, is something that will be virtually impossible to get back under control.
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