Someone once said "An Inbox is as personal a space as an underwear drawer — we all have one and are all embarrassed by both its organisation and contents".
Start 2012 off by applying some simple and effective methods to maintaining an organised and less overwhelming (or embarrassing!) Inbox.
A clean and well-sorted Inbox can save you valuable time and is less overwhelming and stressful. Email guru Debbie Mayo-Smith compares the Inbox to a filing cabinet; folders placed haphazardly in the cabinet defeat the purpose. Utilise the organisational structure provided by your email service and start by sorting your emails into Folders and reduce the pile-up.
Set up a time, preferably twice a day, dedicated to email sorting and organisation. Take this time to focus solely on filtering your emails into Folders and assigning them levels of urgency. Utilise this opportunity to reply to your most time-sensitive emails.
Allow this time to go uninterrupted. Even consider turning off the New Email notification (if you use one) to limit distraction.
Continue to scan emails throughout the day so as not to miss last minute or urgent messages but resist the temptation to deal with routine emails on the fly.
One organiser suggested using the "Four D's" when processing emails. Start at the top and assess each message according to the following:
1. Delete it
2. Do it
3. Delegate it
4. Defer it
This will give you a much needed start on what can seem to be an otherwise overwhelming task.
They suggest that sometimes as much as 50% of daily emails can be deleted, 30% delegated or completed in minutes and 20% deferred to be completed later.
Utilise your email system to its fullest abilities. Take a few hours out of your day to explore your carriers' options and really get to know its capabilities. Most email systems offer add-in programs designed to simplify and manage email organisation.
Filtering emails is one of the easiest ways to promote and maintain sorting and upkeep. Filter however it works best for your needs; based on contacts, categories or subject lines and as messages come in they can be automatically relegated to their designated filter Folder.
Emptying your Trash Folder daily, creating To-Do and Follow-Up Folders and archiving important messages can save you mountains of time. Employ the use of auto-replies to do some of the response work for you.
With a small amount of time each day you can take back control of your Inbox and improve your response time, reduce your stress levels and keep up with due dates and important notifications.