If you are a person who does not feel like you’ve got too many unopened, unread, or unattended emails, would you please give me a call? I’m a Certified Professional Organizer®, and I’ve still going too much going on in my in-box. I can’t solve all the problems, but here’s a good place to start:
1. Learn how to filter spam. If you get spam in your inbox, check with your provider or program and tighten up the spam criteria. Sure, you may lose one or two legitimate emails every now and again, but it’s totally worth it.
2. Learn how to use folders. Every major email program that I know of offers some way to filter your legitimate emails into something other than your inbox. Especially if you have newsletters, store notices, blog posts, or other recurring email types that are not critical to your day, get those into their own little spot without you having to click and drag.
3. Stop reading your email quickly. Yeah, I know, this one is tricky. Just like physical mail, try your best to open something, attend to it, and then move on to the next email or task. When you open an email and read it, your mind has this funny (by that I mean bad) habit of checking off the item, even if it isn’t complete. So slow down, and get quick tasks and replies done right away if you can.
4. Use those folders again. Once read, place items into folders if you have them set up.
5. Waiting on something? Set up a “Waiting For” folder where you can park items that you are waiting for someone to respond. This is also a good place to park notices of upcoming meetings. But make things easy on yourself. Modify the subject header with the due date (or presentation date) so you can sort this folder by date, meaning you can always be on top of upcoming events and commitments.
There is an interesting article in the June 2011 Inc. Magazine about David Karp, founder of Tumblr, which includes his method of handling email. Two things are interesting. First, he reverse filters, meaning everything goes into a folder that he doesn’t read, and the folder he looks at only has emails from his employees and girlfriend. Second, he’s right on that if you condition people to expect that you don’t read email, they’ll get to you another way.
I’d write more and add images to this post, but I’m trying to clear out a bit of my inbox…