An empty e-mail inbox is a beautiful thing to behold. It calms the mind, helps you focus and will make you charge through the day like Kim Kardashian in a Chanel store. But how do you create order in that never-ending flow of email?
An inbox that is full of actions, things you still have to do but don’t feel like doing and badly, badly want to ignore is stressful and counterproductive. It gives you the feeling that you’re drowning in email, drifting farther and farther away from shore.
These tips will help you keep your head above water until you can safely swim to shore. While in the process of learning how to swim, though, only focus on the shore. Don’t begin the daunting task of answering those e-mails while you’re at it: it will shift your focus, you’ll answer a couple of important emails, get tired and still have an overfull inbox. First the filing, then the answering is our motto!
A flooded inbox is overwhelming, and you don’t know where to start. So we’re going to start by simply making these three folders:
Create an immediate actions folder
First of all, create a folder for emails that require your immediate attention. You’ll know it when you see them: you’ll probably want to answer them least of all because they demand the most of your brainpower.
Create an archive folder
Now you create an archive folder. If you’ve organized all your mail, your use the Archive folder as your long-term email reference folder. Every closed email conversation that you may want to retrieve later will be stored here. For every map lover out there one storage place may seem hard at first, but how often do you really check all those different maps on your computer? Right. Just remember, it is completely searchable.
Create a hold folder
Last but not least, you create a hold folder. You know, a folder that contains emails with tracking numbers of online orders, or a message from your boss that says ‘I’ll get back to you after the weekend’ with Re: Exciting Future Plans in the subject. This folder needs regular love and care, and the messages that are no longer relevant can be deleted or placed in the archive folder.
So, you’ve created three maps you’re going to use in the future. Now pay attention, because every email you’ll receive from now on will follow the rules of this section. Seriously, commit right this minute to ruthlessly sticking to them:
Start with the top email, and follow up on these actions: 1. Delete, delete, delete. Don’t be shy. You’ll probably won’t delete something important, and if you do, the person will very likely reply sooner than later. 2. Archive. It doesn’t need a reply? File away. 3. Quick reply. Do this in a couple of sentences tops. 4. Put on your to do list and file in your action folder.
Wash, rinse and repeat for every message in your inbox until it is completely empty. Now the only thing you have to do is keep it that way, by repeating this process a couple of times a day. Never leave a read message in your inbox.
Of course, this exact system won’t work for everyone in every situation. Maybe your work requires you to use a couple of other folders, in addition to these three. Just remember to really contemplate if you really need a new electronic drawer: do you really need it, or do you not want to handle the stuff you put inside?
Let’s be real: who wants to do their inbox if the weather is so, so nice? Right: no one. So do this on a rainy day, stick to it and you’ll have much more time to spare (which you can use for eating ice cream or tanning).