This week’s blog is about emails,  I spent a lot of last week out of the office on site on projects and as a result my inbox is totally crazy, despite trying to keep on top of it on my iphone. I suspect I am not alone struggling to manage an ever increasing inbox.  So here goes with some thoughts on how to get it back under control.

Remember that your inbox is basically someone else’s to do list – it is up to you how you respond to the requests with in it, just because they arrive doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do anything with them.  Now obviously this depends a great deal on who the emails are from – it wouldn’t be great for your business if you ignored emails from your key clients for example, but those from other people wanting your time who are not on your priority list? Useful emails? Sales emails?  To the back of the queue to read at an allotted time or deleted.

Turn off your notifications.  Notifications are a nightmare – that little red spot with a number in it is like a flashing beacon of distraction at the bottom of the screen – it’s all too easy to think ‘I’ll just take a quick look’ and an hour later you are still dealing with a non-important thing and wondering how you got to lunchtime not having actually done anything yet.

Allocate selected points in the day to check email.  This is related to notifications and distractions, there is not much in your email that can’t wait a couple of hours generally, and if it is something life or death then someone will most likely phone you about it.  So set up selected points in the day to check it, and get on with your actual work instead.

What to do when you check it.  This is all about efficiency you have four options with your inbox emails:

  • Delete it – it doesn’t contain anything you need to know or anything you need to do.
  • Delegate it – it is a task that someone else needs to be doing – so forward it to them as an action, also see if you can manage the sender to communicate directly with this person in future if appropriate
  • Do it – these are for the genuine urgent ones – they require something doing straight away, so do it now
  • Do it later – these are the ones that require non-urgent action, probably relating to a current project or some information you asked for – use the flagging tool or file it and then deal with it when you are working on that project. They may require a holding message back to the sender – saying when you will be dealing with it to prevent more chasing emails checking that you received it.

Manage your contacts – There is a current culture of Cc-ing everyone who may be vaguely related to the email and then replying all to them.  This is about people covering their backside and it is up to you to manage this with your contacts.  I had an instance of this occur this week, I was copied in on over 20 emails in one morning of people thanking each other, digressing off onto different topics etc.  My advice would be to manage your contacts so that you are only Cc-ed when needed, and when thinking about hitting reply – all does this person need to know about it so you don’t add to the problem.

As part of your contact management speak to people about how you use your email – tell them if you only check it at certain times of the day, or ask them not to Cc you unless you need to do something.  That way you are less likely to miss something that is actually important as well as reduce the amount of emails you receive.

And now – I’m off to clean out my inbox!  Good luck with yours!

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