I have recently changed the way I process my email. It has been a God-send! First off, I have two offices. I have my home office and my office office. I manage each one differently; mainly because they use different systems and because I have different needs at each place. But as I said, I recently made some drastic changes in how I manage my e-mail in and out flow.
There are tons of articles out online about how to manage your e-mail inbox like a CEO. And while I love reading and taking tips from my role models, I’m not a CEO. I don’t have a secretary that can manage my flow for me. So, I can’t really manage my inbox like a CEO. I have to manage it with a system that works for me. Below are my three tips that I have slowly implemented to manage my inbox like someone who cares how time is used.
1. Set up times to respond.
This will take some getting used to. Trust me. I tried a year ago to do it and I eventually reverted back to my old ways of leaving my inbox open all day. But last month I thought I’d give it another shot. This time, I pulled out an index card and wrote six times on it. 8:00, 9:30, 11:30, 12:45, 2:00 and 3:00. I put it up on my bulletin board which is right beside my monitor. Those are the times when I can open my inbox. Then I have to close it. As I said, this takes some getting used to not only from yourself, but from your coworkers. I actually got an email the week after I went on this schedule that asked (because I hadn’t responded two seconds after I receieved the message) if I had received the message. Here’s a tip, if you need something immediately, pick up the phone.
2. Develop a file structure.
I still struggle with this one at the office. I don’t like the idea of a “to do later” folder, but at home, I have created a similar system. I get a ton of emails. Most of them are by choice. I get notified of new comments on my Brazen Careerist profiles, as well as Facebook notifications. But I also get a lot of emails from my bank, my credit card companies and my investment firms. I used to take care of all these emails and bills on a daily basis. 18 months ago I decided that was a waste of time. So I now pay all my bills on Sunday evenings. It manages the time better. But now, I have a folder that I use weekly to file away all the financial emails I get throughout the week that I know I will go back to on Sunday. It keeps my inbox clean and makes it easy to get through my Sunday night without any problems.
3. Turn off the notifications.
Seriously! If you don’t want to take my No. 1 point up there and implement it, at least turn off all the notifications. Turn off the pop ups and the little chims. They are destroying your productivity! And you could even turn off your phone notifications too. I have news for you: none of us are that important that we have to drop everything, every five seconds to check the email.
Since I have implemented these changes, I have noticed something. A half hour after I shut my inbox, I look on my taskbar and search for the e-mail; out of habit! I had never realized how much time I spent on emails until I made these changes. Take control of your inbox!
What tactics do you use to manage your inbox?
(Flickr image via buckaroobay)