In part two of TCE (Taking Care of Email), I will offer a few thoughts for you to consider as you gain control over your email. These are things that work for me. However, the key for you is to find a system that works for you; one that makes your life easier. The goal here is to get you to think about how you process email and make changes that save you time and stress.
As you think about how you would like to manage your email more effectively and efficiently, here are a few things to think about.
1. Slow down to speed up.
When one feels overwhelmed by one’s inbox, spending more time processing email does not make you feel less overwhelmed. Slow down, think about what type of email you are receiving and whether you really need it or need to act upon it
2. Use one application to manage multiple email accounts.
Currently, I have at least eight (8) email accounts (truly a long story) and my goal is to reduce that number to three. Six of the eight are sent to my personal Gmail account, which filters all of them into separate folders based on the email account name. I also have additional sub-folders that filter based on topics and individuals.
In terms of business, I have a separate account that I log into and sub-categorize emails based on topics and individuals. At some point, I will add my business account to my personal Gmail account but the reason I have not is because Google does not allow for multiple signature. I know it is a matter of time. In fact, I have sent an email requesting that feature.
Microsoft Outlook also has the ability to manage multiple email accounts. The nice thing about Outlook is that you can create multiple signatures.
3. Use email filters and folders
I cannot reiterate this enough. I filter most of my messages. The most important ones go to my inbox so that when I check my email I will act on those immediately, if necessary. I also should state that I generally do not filter messages from friends and family, even though some of those messages contain jokes and the like I generally process them immediately when I review email.
In addition, I created a folder called “For Deletion,” which I have found to be extremely helpful. I put a lot of email I receive from email lists I have signed up over the years. It is mostly email that I call “for information purposes only.” I scan this folder once a day. I delete its contents at the end of the week.
4. Disable alerts and set aside specific time to respond to email
Disable your email alerts. You do not need to know every time you get an email as this can be very distracting especially if you feel the need to read or act upon each email you receive. My suggestion is to set aside time to check your email and respond to the most important things. I am scheduled to check email three times a day and I send myself a reminder. Of course there are times I check it more than three times a day.
5. Unsubscribe to any lists or groups
I am always thinking about whether I need to receive an email or not, especially from many of the lists to which I have subscribed. If not, I remove myself. My thinking is that I can always decide to subscribe again. There have been very few, if any, lists to which I have “re-subscribed.”
6. Use the “4 Ds of Decision-Making” to process email: Delegate, Delete, Delay or Do.
For every piece of email, ask “Can I delegate, delete, delay, or do?”
If you can quickly respond, that is, do something with it; try to complete it in five minutes or less. Otherwise you should delay your response. For messages I delay, I either add to my tasks list or flag. When more time is available, I review them and complete the required task or response.
Managing email is an ongoing process. However, to manage it effectively and efficiently as possible, you need to create a system that works for you and your schedule.