I am regularly asked how to deal with emails and every day some one tells me that they have too many emails in their Inbox.
One of the very best ways to deal with emails is to become very good friends with the “delete” button and start using a timer.
When I suggest this to people they reply “I can’t just delete”
Yes You Can
Over time I have developed my own way to deal with emails.
Most days I receive too many and it would take my whole day just to deal with emails.
I have created the discipline of using the “delete” button and I find the aid of a timer essential.
So here is what I do.
- I only look at emails 2 or 3 times per day, very occasionally I check back a 4th time
- I set the timer for 10 or 15 minutes. If I have a lot more emails than usual I might use 20 minutes.
- I deal with as many emails as possible in the allocated time according to:
- Reply now if a quick reply and I do that immediately, then either file or delete
- Read later; I have a folder called “read later” for items that are worthy of reading and not now. There are always times in the week where I want to read some thing interesting. I have pre-allocated time in my diary every day for “reading/ learning”
- Listen/watch later; I have a folder called “media to watch/ listen” for all the videos, webinars etc that are topics of importance and interest. Again I have allocated time in my week for “professional development webinars”
- “Deal with this week” or “deal with today” for the emails that I cannot deal with till I have more information
- File. Some I just file without opening
- Delete without opening
- When the timer goes off I stop.
- All remaining emails in my Inbox are moved into a “standby folder” or just deleted if I know there is nothing of much importance
I like to work with an empty “Inbox”.
- At the end of each week I check the remaining emails in my “standby folder” to see if there is anything that “catches my eye” i.e. requires attention and I deal with them. Again I would set the timer for an allocated time otherwise an hour disappears.
- Delete the rest.
The “standby folder” starts each week afresh.
Is this foolproof? No
Do I ever spend longer than the timer time? Yes
Does this mostly work? Yes
Am I always tweaking and making small changes to refine my process? Absolutely Yes