So we’ve all been there. Projects piling up, deadlines quickly approaching, people standing at our office door waiting to come in, the phone won’t stop ringing, our not-so-smart-phone is about to vibrate off the desk, and our email inbox keeps filling up faster than we can respond. What do we do?
Well, while we can’t solve all of your office problems in a single post, we can address a big one for you-
How to deal with your email effectively and take your life back!
Knowing that you have a life that needs to be lived and being stuck behind a desk typing is not your ultimate purpose, here’s a few helpful tips & techniques that I’ve personally incorporated the last few years that have literally revolutionized my workday, freed me from the chains of the dreaded inbox, and restored long lost productivity (and often times sanity) to my life:
- Set Limits. Yes, that’s right. Set 2 or 3 times a day when you check and respond to messages. Then, stick to it. 98.6%+ of all email can wait. Don’t let the 1.4% run your life. Remember, if it’s that important, they’ll call, send for you, or come see you. For me, I check my office account at 10 am and 4 pm CST on most days. Other than that, I don’t look at it.
- Scan and Delete. Don’t feel as though you need to read every email- sort through them! What I do on a daily basis is keep my default inbox setting to “Most Recent” so the latest email shows up first/on top. However, if my box starts getting full, I’ll quickly click on the “Sender” sort feature and then bulk delete all the mail quickly and easily that I know is going to waste my time (i.e. well intended forwards and spam). When complete, don’t forget to reset your sort feature back to “Most Recent”.
- Read then Act. The worst thing to do if you are a busy person is to read an email and they say, “I’ll take care of that later”. If you have already invested your time in reading the email once, why do it twice? Carefully Read the email the first time, make a Decision, then Act. Your action may be deleting it, asking a follow-up question, answering the sender/team, flagging it, icing it, or filing it in your sub-folders for archiving sake. No matter what you choose though, make a decision, act, and don’t look back!
- File When Complete. Most people leave all of their mail in their inbox for months or delete it. Not only does this make your inbox a beast to look at and sort through, but it also denies you of the satisfaction of visual completion. Plus, if you are one of those people who simply deletes everything, you potentially leave yourself open to huge problems, liability, and lawsuits down the road. While I hate a messy desk and office, it’s easy & clean to store and retrieve digital files. So use an organized folder structure in your email system with sub-folders. For example, my email has folders for Clients, Vendors, Team, Charities, Finance, Personal, Special Projects, Ideas, and so on. Then, I have sub-folders setup under each that separate out specifically who it is from. For example, under the folder Vendors I have sub-folders of all the people I do business with on a regular basis. For Vendors I do not use regularly (i.e. worthy of their own sub-folder) I put them in the generic Vendor folder. Here’s a screenshot to help you envision what I am talking about.
Using this Folder/Sub-folder method achieves many things, but my favorite three (3) are:
- It allows me a quick and easy way to sort through years of email fast
- It gives me the satisfaction of moving completed tasks out of my inbox and into a ‘completed’ folder
- It challenges and pushes me to work through my inbox in order to achieve the illusive ‘Clean Inbox’ status (I know, I’m weird, but you know it makes you happy too when you knock out all that mail ?
While there are more email tips and tricks we can share, that’s it for today. Start applying these techniques today and let us know honestly how it helps you grow, the results you see, and time you save in the comments section below.
You can do this! But will you?
Choose GROWTH, not excuses, and share your results below now!
Scripture to Consider:
- 1 Corinthians 14:40