When my email inbox reached over 500 emails I knew I had to do something to take control! Once it gets over about 20 emails, items and ‘to-do’s’ will just get lost and forgotten. Not only that, but you begin to feel totally overwhelmed and disorganised. It becomes hard to prioritise which ones to respond to first. Do you have similar issues with the emails in your inbox?
How to take back control :
1. Give yourself an hour (or half an hour at least) to focus on clearing the inbox.
2. Go through them in order, otherwise you will procrastinate on the emails that you either a) find difficult to action or b) are being indecisive about. You don’t have to action them all now. Create a ‘General To do’ list which you will use while going through your emails.
3. For each email analyse what you need to do with it – either you will want to:
a) Action it straightaway if it is quick and easy – for e.g someone has asked you a question and you can quickly reply with an answer. As soon as you’ve done it, delete the email.
b) Action it straightaway, but it also requires follow-up and you need the email ‘trail’ for information. Action it and then create an email folder with a name relevant to the ‘project’that your email relates to.
c) Action later – add the relevant action to a ‘General To do’ list and move the email to a folder with a name relevant to the ‘project’ that this email is part of.
d) Keep for reference – this may be an interesting blog or other content that you would like to keep and refer back to later. Create an email folder titled ‘To read’ or ‘Interesting information’ where you can move this type of email. Then designate half an hour or an hour every week in your diary to go through items in this folder.
e) Keep going until you have gone through all of the emails – they will either be actioned (and deleted) or moved to a mail folder and any actions relating to them listed in your ‘General To do’ list. Now take your General To do list and use it to create a separate To do list – your Daily To do list. Your General To do list may be overwhelming otherwise, so take approx. 6 items from it which are your highest priority items and put them on your daily to do list.
f) Then work from that list. Repeat daily.