Although email is an essential business tool for today we all get too much. At some point many people become overwhelmed by the amount of email received and need to deal with. At this point email actually becomes an impediment to doing business. It actually makes getting things done harder.
So what can you do? Here a few suggestions that may assist you getting back in control of your inbox.
First and foremost place a much higher value on your inbox. Determine whether what appears in there should really appear there. Does it make the inbox more or less valuable? Mostly it will be less valuable. Things such as email newsletters should either be unsubscribed from or routed to a sub folder using rules. Unsubscribing to all that stuff you once thought would be of interest but in fact you have never looked at really has no value being in your inbox, so either route it away or unsubscribe.
If there are really things in your inbox that you want to save, don’t leave them to fester in your inbox, create a subfolder called archive and move those emails there. Getting email away from your inbox makes it much easier to focus on the tasks at hand rather than being distract by older emails that you know you really should do something with.
If there are emails from which you are waiting for replies on or need to reference in the short term, create another folder called follow up and move these there. Again, moving these ‘waiting on’ emails to another location removes from your direct sight and again allows you to focus on what is most current.
Finally, be pragmatic and go through your emails and delete emails that provide little value. if you need to keep that one snippet of information then maybe copy and paste just that component into something like OneNote. Don’t simply keep an email because there is one small part that has value. Be ruthless with your pruning efforts and ask yourself whether you really, really, really need that email.
Your inbox should be much cleaner now. Consider creating standard email rules to route non critical emails to subfolders where you can deal with them when you have less priorities. Everything you receive in your inbox is not important the second it arrives there. You may also want to consider a rule that automatically moves CC’ed mail out of your inbox. If the email wasn’t addressed to you directly it will probably have a lower priority and may not need addressing at all. Having a good understanding of how your email programs works and of the features it includes is a very factor in becoming more productive. Spend some time sharpening your axe, you won’t regret it.
For many of emails sent between you and your colleagues consider whether email is really the best mechanism for collaboration. Tools like OneNote and SharePoint provide a central location for a wide range of information that can easily be shared with others. Utilizing these tools also makes it very easy to bring new members into the team rather than forwarding a raft of previous correspondence that they need to become familiar with. Another option to consider maybe social media tools whether public like Twitter and Facebook or private ones like Yammer.
However, the key is to place a higher value on your inbox and effectively your time. Utilizing the features that come with programs like Outlook can help you keep your emails under control but that makes little difference if you don’t place a value on your inbox.