Are you tired of spending what seems like hours searching through email after email to find one from two weeks ago? Maybe we should hold a contest to see who has the most emails? If you are like me, I am afraid that as soon as I delete it, that is when someone will question it. Or there are a lot in my inbox, that I just dont know what to do with or dont have time at the moment, so it gets left for later, (which sometimes turns to almost never). Well we are going to try and get it organized together this week, here are a few tips:
1.Set up a simple and effective folder system for reference. A lot of your emails are just for reference and do not require any action, set up a system to move them to a folder as quickly as possible.
2.Schedule uninterrupted time to process and organize your email. It is impossible to stay on task when you get a phone call, than someone stops by your office with a question, then you receive an instant message, then another phone call, and over and over again. (And people wonder what I did all day?) If you dont make time, it wont get done. Book yourself an appointment to spend a half hour (or longer) every day, or every few hours (depending on the amount of emails you receive) to do nothing but respond to emails and get them out of the inbox. Now, I am not saying to only look at emails during that time, scan them throughout the day to take care of the emergencies, but dont spend all day back and forth with emails, but dont let them go for a week with no attention.
3.Process one at a time, starting at the top. During your appointment, focus on first things first. Dont look to far ahead, you may get overwhelmed, and dont skip, it may get forgotten and sit for a week.
4.Use the Four Ds for Decision Making How many times can you look at the same message? The answer doesnt magically appear, you have to decide what to do with it.
a.Delete it Usually you can delete half of the emails you get. But some of you are like me, and hate to delete. I may need that tidbit in six months, right?! Here are a few tips about when to delete.
i.Does the email relate to anything you are currently working on?
ii.Does the email contain info you cannot find somewhere else?
iii.Are you really going to need it in six months?
iv.Is it required?
If answered no to all of these questions, then please delete!
b.Do it if you dont delete it, then decide what to do with it. If it can be done quickly, do it. Why put it off for later? You will be surprised how many you can clear out in five minutes this way.
c.Delegate it If you cant delete, and you cant do it, can you delegate? If so, pass it on. Why waste your time, if someone else can do it quicker?
d.Defer it If you cant delete, cant do, cant delegate, then defer it. If it is going to take ten or fifteen minutes to handle that particular email, defer it until you have finished the processing the rest. You can defer it two ways turn it into a task on your task list, or schedule an appointment to deal with it.
Be sure to follow through daily, or it will be back to the way it is now, if not worse.