Managing email is not a hard thing to do if you have a system.
Too often I notice people getting lost in their inbox, spending several minutes trying to decide what's important, what's not important, what can be thrown away and what needs to be responded to. The truth is that email does not have to be a horrific experience. By putting a simple filing system in place using mailboxes (or folders if you prefer), you can gain control of your email and become more productive in far less time freeing you up to do more important tasks. Your time is valuable. This will help.
This system is meant to stay simple so I will not get into setting up filters or mail rules. I do not want to ovewhelm that individual who is just looking for a little help in managing their Inbox.
First, you need to follow these simple rules in regard to email management:
1) You don't need to check your email every 15 minutes. (If the email sent to you was that big of a priority, it would require a phone call.) Set aside a 5 minute block of time every 2 to 3 hours to process all the email in your Inbox.
2) Resist the urge to delete email unless it is junk. There is more than enough space available to store your email on your email provider's server. Instead, archive all mail you no longer have a use for.
3) Go through your mailbox system first chance you get at the start of your day. Use this email management structure to keep you current and focused on what is going on in your business and personal life.
4) Set up your email mailbox system. In this post, I will describe my system. It may be something you want to mimic or you may decide to modify it some. But you need a good structured mailbox system. Let's get into that now.
My Email Folder System:
All email starts with 1 mailbox and that is the Inbox. My system divides that mailbox into 1 of 11 other mailboxes. So let me give you a breakdown of those 11 mailboxes and what role they play in my email management system.
Mailbox #1: Archive: This is the mailbox you put any email that no longer has any current relevance but could be something you may want to reference weeks or months later or possibly even never again.
Mailbox #2: Action: This is the mailbox you put any email that requires an action next performed by you. (Examples: a reply to an invitation or a receipt for a transaction you want to enter into a check book register)
Mailbox #3: Evernote: (Evernote is a free note service that can be used an archive of all your important documents. Evernote gives you a free email address that you can use to forward all of those emails that are of high importance that you will want to always have record of.) This is a mailbox you put any email in that you will want to forward to Evernote later. You can forward those emails as you come across them but I find it more useful to just drop those into this mailbox and forward them all at once at one time of the day. This mailbox can be customized to also be another service including the forwarding of email to another email service if you wish.
Mailbox #4: Follow: This is the mailbox you put any email that requires an action next performed by someone else. You keep mail in this mailbox to help you remember what needs followed up on. (You would be surprised at how many people actually need to be reminded to do something repeatedly. Regardless, if you are responsible for something that hinges on the action of another party, this mailbox is a must have.)
Mailbox #5: Junk: This mailbox is self-explanatory. This is where you put spam and other email you no longer want coming to your inbox. Everyday you should take the time to mark this mail as spam or unsubsrcibe from those newsletters you accidentally signed up for or lost interest in.
Mailbox #6: Later: The mailbox is where you put those emails that are of no urgent matter. It could be advertisements for your favorite places to shop. It could be articles you want to read. It could be those nice little chain letters that you don't want to throw away because of a silly superstition.
Mailbox #7: Messages (Optional): This mailbox is a place holder for all conversation archives. For Google Voice users, you can have an email sent to you every time you receive a text message or voicemail. I also use this mailbox to store any Facebook or Twitter messages I receive as an email. (This really serves as an archive mailbox as well but with the sole purpose of storing bits of conversation.)
Mailbox #8: Process (for email with attachments): This mailbox is where you store emails containing a file that later needs to be stored on a computer or perhaps opened at a later time to be modified. Use this for storing emails that have been sent to you containing bulletins, forms, media or other kind of files that you want to keep a copy of on your computer.
Mailbox #9: Review: This is where you store those emails that will take some time to look over. This mailbox could be used for storing company emails that contain bulletins, proposals or other kinds of information that require no action but contain information that needs to be looked at before being archived or filed away.
Mailbox #10: Someday: This is the mailbox full of emails that you may or may not want to get around to looking into eventually. This could be a special on a flight to Hawaii or an invitation to test out the lastest realease of some hot new software or maybe it is an advertisement email that has pictures of your dream car. You get the picture.
Mailbox #11: Inbox: Why did I end with the Inbox? Because this is what you go back to after you have filed all your other emails. If you still have email left in your Inbox after using this system, it is probably becuase you felt you needed to deal with it that instant. Well the Inbox is where I keep that email that can be easily responded to in just a couple minutes. There is no sense in filing off mail that you need to address as soon as possible. After you have filed all your other emails, revert back to your inbox and deal with those emails that need your immediate attention, then you simply file them in one of the other 10 mailboxes.
There are some questions that may arise when using this system. Here are some of those questions and my answers to those questions.
1) What if an email I have needs to be stored in 2 separate mailboxes?
Forward yourself a copy (copies) and then put one email in each folder that applies.
2) When do I use the trash mailbox?
You should not have to use this mailbox often. But I use it for duplicate emails, mail sent to me by mistake or mail from people I no longer have any association with.
3) How long will it take me to get use to this system?
That depends on your level of discipline in making it a routine task you perform several times a day. Don't forget to review all your mailboxes daily. (The "Someday" and "Review" mailboxes are actually ones that can be checked on a less frequent basis like weekly.)
So I hope this post helps those that I attempted to reach. Do you have anymore questions? Don't hesistate to ask in the comment section below.
Thank you for viewing and extra thanks goes out to my subscribers.
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