Organize your inbox and get everything done

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It's time to deal with email overwhelm

You know how it is, everyday the avalanche of email keeps coming. You have to deal with all these important communications even though you find the whole exercise overwhelming and somewhat stress inducing. Unfortunately, you can’t simply select all and delete them. If you haven’t already, it’s probably time to work on organizing your inbox once and for all so you can handlle your email avalanche while you eliminate that feeling of overwhelm.

When considering possibilities it’s best to just start at the top, so let’s get started:

Schedule blocks of time

Schedule blocks of time for email just as you would any other task, and only handle related issues during that time. You’ll feel more comfortable scheduling several time blocks per day, times that work best for you and your workload. Try this schedule: late morning, after lunch and end-of-day.

Many start their day in the inbox and find this incredibly disruptive because this activity is reactionary at best. You might want to remember that what lands in your inbox are requests other people want to make of you and your time should be spent on growing or serving your business.

Remember these days, people have different ways of connecting with you based on the urgency they attach to their request. Email isn’t considered urgent (for the most part) in cases like this so if you’re checking email at your scheduled time block you will be able to address the right emails in a timely manner.

With your limited time, you’ll need to check your most important emails first, and not be tempted to check your emails in chronological order.

Organize your inbox

Set up filtering

Every email service provider has filtering features you can take advantage of. Take the time to learn how to filter out mass emails, sales and organizational messages. Once you’ve got those filters set up you can go back and look through your mass email folder when you have time - after you’ve taken care of the important direct messages.

Many set up a separate account for all the newsletters and the like so they can separate them from the more business focused emails, giving you finer control of your inbox and your time management. You might find the whole exercise informative when you actually set aside time to read what’s coming in, or not!

Prioritize your replies

Even though you have a great number of replies to make, they’re not all equally important. If you open an email, make a decision as to what needs to happen next. A quick tip here is...if you can get the request done in 2 minutes or less, do it! If you’re not able to complete it in that timeframe, there are only a few options you can do to any email. All of these actions will help you deal with the email with as few “touches” as possible. They are:

Two Minute Task rule
  • Do it (2 mins or less)...

  • If that won’t work, can you Schedule it? (if yes, schedule time for the task in your calendar immediately)

  • If those don’t apply, can you Delegate to the right person? (If so, delegate immediately)

  • If that doesn’t apply, does it need to be Filed? (if so, file it immediately)

  • If none of the above apply, Delete the email (this could be tough to to but think about why you’re keeping it…)

Use features for Urgency

Create your own system of urgency levels in your inbox. You can do this by tagging, starring or folder organization. One method is to star anything important and then address these first during your schedule time block. Many people use the “mark as unread” feature for anything that needs your attention quickly.

Deleting can be liberating

Don’t be afraid to delete things that are unimportant after you’ve reviewed them. Items such as announcements and newsletters are the first items that come to mind. If you ask yourself the question “Do i need to see this again?” and the answer is no, then you can get rid of it with a clear conscience. If you hesitate, go back to the list noted above and apply that to the email you’re looking at.

Pick up the phone!

These days some try to find reasons to shy away from picking up the phone. There are many times when it’s better to call someone than to send an email. Some issues can be resolved more quickly by having a direct conversation. A good rule of thumb is if there’s back-and-forth 3 times, pick up the phone! You inbox will thank you.

Tools you can use

Make use of any tools and features your email service offers. These might include things like templates and automatic replies that can help you save some time here and there.

Whatever tools you use, don’t make the process overly complicated. The whole purpose is to make checking and dealing with communications smoother, simpler and more efficient. Just a few simple tools can help you cut down on time.