Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Managing the Chaos that is your mailbox...

Managing your email inbox may feel impossible especially if you are receiving hundreds of email messages a day. If you're letting your email inbox fill up with all of those messages, you may be feeling overwhelmed, possibly missing deadlines, neglecting responsibilities, and breaking promises. Finding a method for managing  the chaos that is your mailbox can help create control thus improve response time allowing you to keep up with critical due dates and actions.

I personally have tried many methods but the one method I found the most effective is simple and the same method I use for cleaning a closet, pantry, or garage.   I like to group my emails by conversation so that any emails with multiple threads are auotomatically consolidated.  Then I categorize everything into one of the the following four categories:

1. Trash it
Cut the clutter!  Get rid of everything that you do not need.  Any junk items trash or delete.  Most marketing flyer's, spam or junk mail does not require a response. If possible unsubscribe to flyer's, and automated messages that you do not use. This will prevent these types of emails from coming back again in a day or two.   If you are unsure if you can track it, ask your self,  is this relevent? Am I required to keep this for legal purposes? etc... If the answer is no then trash it!

2. Share/ Delegate it
Any message that is misdirected, or someone else can answer for you delegate it.   Think of this as donating it for someone else to use!

3.  Store it
Any emails that are informational purposes or that you can return to later store.   This would include marketing material, internal communications etc. Many email boxes include categories, tags, labels or folders for organizing and storing emails to reference later.  If action is still required on the item you can usually schedule a task or reminder to follow up later.

4. Use it
At this point everything left in your mailbox is an email that you need to respond.  As a rule of thumb any emails that you can respond to in two minutes or less do those first.  If it needs more than two minutes schedule time to address later.   Once you've responded be sure to delete, or store the email.

The trick to creating an efficient email inbox is to control the chaos.    You won’t believe what a wonderful feeling it is to have it all under control!!