Does the thought of opening your email inbox fill you with dread? Is your inbox bloated and crammed full of stuff that you don’t even remember asking for? Watch this video to learn strategies for managing your inbox.
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Hi. I’m Lorie Marrero, creator of the Clutter Diet book and on-line program, and today we’re going to talk about seven ways to tame your e-mail inbox.
I look at this problem the way I look at all organizing issues, and that is the same way as losing weight. That’s why I call my program the Clutter Diet. It’s very similar. You want to look at prevention, reduction, and maintenance. So cutting your calories, preventing things from getting in the in-box in the first place, reducing the accumulation of what you’ve already got, kind of like working out, and then maintaining with good habits to keep you from getting all the way back to the way you were when you started. So, let’s take these tips through prevention and reduction and maintenance.
First, you want to take a moment and instead of hitting the “delete” key, hit the “unsubscribe” link and make it official. If you’re not reading something, go ahead and make the investment of time so that you don’t receive all those future issues too. Also, when you’re buying something on-line, make sure the boxes are not accidentally (or on purpose) checked that say, “Please send me your weekly sale information” or whatever it is when you’re checking out from your purchase, because those are where a lot of these e-mails come from that you have to unsubscribe to later. Then, if there are people who frequently send you e-mail, it may be possible for them instead of sending you multiple e-mails in a day, for them to send you a digest of information of what you need to know in one e-mail. So, my assistant and I do this frequently where instead of her peppering me with e-mails, she will just say a summary, “Okay, this is the e-mail for the end of the day, these issues came up, you need to call this person,” whatever, and I get one instead of seven.
All right. So think about reduction. How do we reduce that accumulation? First, Rules and Filters are a fantastic tool. They are available in pretty much any e-mail software. In Microsoft Outlook, it is called “Rules” and there is a really easy Wizard to go through to set up these rules. And then Filters are what they call it in Gmail. Basically they are a bunch of “If/Then” statements. So “If these conditions are met,” such as a certain word in the subject line, or being from a certain sender, “then take that e-mail and take some kind of action on it.” So let’s say if it’s from your boss, then make sure it gets put into this certain folder. Or it can be automatically forwarded to someone else. Or it can be turned red in your box or whatever condition you want to put on there and whatever resulting action. But make sure you do that. A Reading folder is a fantastic example of this. Anything that you read regularly that you enjoy that you just want to get out of the in-box and out of your way, you can have it automatically sent to a Reading folder and then all of those are sorted for you.
Also, when you are reducing the accumulation you want to use our little acronym of ART, the art of sorting out your e-mail. But “action, reference, or trash,” are the only three things that you can do with an e-mail. You can either take action on it, or you can save it for reference for later, no action required, or you can delete it. So “action, reference, or trash,” that’s the question you need to ask yourself as you go down the list and try to eliminate and get these things out of your box.
Then you want to think about your maintenance, obviously. So there’s a concept I teach called the Happy Number. What is your Happy Number? It is the number of e-mails you have at the end of the day, or maybe even the end of the week, that make you feel like you’re on top of things. So let’s say if your Happy Number is 50, you’ve got 50 e-mails in your in-box kind of at the end of the day, you feel like, “All right, that’s a manageable number. I have finished my work for the day.” There’s a finish line with a Happy Number. So maybe for some people that number could be 20, or for some people that number could be 100, but it’s a personal thing and you decide what that goal is going to be for you.
Also with maintenance, you want to make sure that as you process your e-mail you’re processing it in batches, not continuously. I have a whole video about this, about how baking cookies has to do with procrastination. But I talk about batch processing versus continuous processing. And the mistake people make that wastes a lot of time is that they are continuously reacting to their e-mail all day long instead of going to it, processing it in batches, and dealing with it just a few certain times of the day.
So there you have it. There are seven tips. There are so many more e-mail tips that I can tell you, and one of the things that would be helpful probably is to look at my book called “The Home Office Handbook.” I give you a whole framework for processing information in general including the ART, “action, reference, trash” model, and there’s a flow chart and everything. It helps you think differently about your information. And you can see that at clutterdiet.com/homeoffice.
See you next time, and may you always be happy and grateful for having more than enough.