Time Management Technique: Get Control of Your Email Box

by Joanne Steele on November 9, 2009

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You have mail.Here’s a time management technique that can save you hours every week.

Treat email as irreverently as you treat snail mail! Think about it. You toss your mail on the table and ignore it, then you sift through keeping the bills and personal stuff (yes, a few people still get letters!) and toss the rest out.

Think about how differently you’re treating email. You probably sort through and discard any spam that got through your filter. Then you go through each piece one by one, opening, reading, discarding, answering maybe, saving, or closing and ignoring allowing your box to fill with stuff you don’t know what to do with. ARGH!

Try this for a week and see if it can make you some time each day. If you have lots of undealt with dreck in your email box, you’re going to have to spend a little time to save some time.

After completely cleaning out your box the first time, set a limit on how long you’re going to fuss with email. I’m down to 15 minutes a day for 3 email boxes. Most people can handle their email in 5 to 10 minutes a day with a system.

Here’s my system:

1. Go through and delete all email that is clearly spam.

2. Now create three email folders, an “active”, an “active time sensitive”, and an “alerts” folder if you have your Google Alerts delivered to this email box. (If you haven’t set up Google Alerts yet, go to  Google Alerts Can Help Small Rural Tourism Businesses Become More Profitable.)

3. Quickly go through every email in your box, and without opening them file them in one of these three folders. If you have any hesitation about putting an email in the “active file” don’t slow down, just put it in the “active time sensitive” file.

4. After you have emptied you whole email box, go to the “active time sensitive” folder and quickly handle each one. Answer, and either file or delete every email.

I have set up file categories for anything I need to hang onto over time. This isn’t about tossing everything. It’s about keeping what you need where you can find it!

If you hesitate at all over what to do with something, stick it in the “active” folder and keep going. When the folder is empty, you’re done. Some that you answer will have “pending” status. Put them in the “active” file.

5. Now use the time you have left to go through the “active” folder doing the same thing. If you just don’t know what to do with something, close it and keep going. When your allotted time is up, stop. These aren’t time sensitive, remember?

6. At the end of the week, delete everything that is still in your active folder. You can’t figure out what to do with those emails, so get rid of them!

Think about how long email used to take and how long you’re spending now. Use the time you have created to check and manage your Google Alerts, or work on another marketing project.
Creative Commons License photo credit: marcusrg You’ve Got Mail!

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