Nothing screams “out of control” more than an over-flowing inbox; added to which every time you look at it the very sight of all those demanding emails drains just a little more life out of you.
All true but can you really operate an empty inbox policy and so keep yourself on top of the game? Of course you can and here’s how: –
1 Unsubscribe don’t just delete
You’re in a rush so you just scream down your inbox and delete the trashy stuff you know you’ll never read. WRONG! all you’re doing is burdening your future self with more of the same.
Take a moment to scan to the bottom of the page and click on the “unsubscribe” button – hey presto one less email to worry about.
Another variation of this is the Internal mailing list. Somebody sticks you on it usually to cover their arses well don’t stand for it. If you’re on a circulation list you shouldn’t be simply write back to the sender and explain you would rather not be on the list and ask to be taken off it. If you don’t have the cahoneys for this see Rules and Alerts below – will do just as nicely.
2 Have designated email processing times in your day
Every time an email comes in you have to look or maybe you’re one of those people who has to keep checking their inbox to see who thinks you’re special enough to send an email to (that’s me). WRONG! There are two reasons for this:
- Firstly it is estimated that each time you look at your inbox it costs you up to 2 minutes lost productivity so the less times you look the less time you waste.
- Secondly every time you open and close an email without doing anything with it you’re just perpetuating a full inbox mentality.
So why not set aside specific times in the day to look and process your emails then you can do just that and not just open, read, frown and leave for later.
Obviously it’s for you to decide but if I’m busy (which is most of the time) my times are first and last thing; elevenses (for non-Brits this is about 11am and corresponds to having a cup of coffee and some biscuits); lunchtime and the afternoon tea (about 3pm).
3 Never put off until later what you can do today
So you’ve opened an email; seen that it needs to be processed today but will take longer than a few seconds to respond to so you’ve closed it and moved on to the next. WRONG! If you’ve adopted Tip #2 you will have time so just deal with it. If you decide that you need more time than you have it’s best to actually schedule some time in your calendar to complete it and then move onto the next.
Don’t kid yourself: it needs doing or it doesn’t and if it does you have to find time to do it – take control over this and YOU decide when this is.
4 Use Outlook Tasks
If Microsoft had thought that you could manage your daily tasks with Calendar and your Inbox they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of writing their Tasks module. You need to organise your tasks in a certain way (we have a short video that shows you how to do this; if you want it just drop me an email) but other than that you’re good to go.
So an email comes in that you have to work on but just not now so we close it and promise to look at it another day. WRONG! Copy the relevant parts of the email; switch into Outlook Tasks and create a new task, paste what you’ve copied; back to the email and copy any relevant attachments; back to the new task and paste them in. Then set the due date for when you’re going to complete the task, set the reminder flag and you’re done.
One more thing here, if the task is going to take more than a few minutes why not block out the necessary time in your diary to do it and then set the reminder for that date and time. I find this stops me from being all “last minute” about things.
5 Use Directories in your Inbox
For those emails you need to keep for whatever reason you just leave in the inbox and use the search facility to find them when you need them. WRONG! Much better to create a subdirectory under our Inbox and drag it across. One less email in your Inbox and easier to lay your hands on if you need it in the future.
6 Use the Rules and Alerts Feature of Outlook
Click on File then Manage Rules and Alerts and you can automatically send incoming emails to a sub-directory you’ve set up, redirect the blasted thing or even just delete those stubborn and hard-to-get-rid-of emails that the unsubscribe feature just doesn’t seem to shift.
So those newsletters that you want to receive but you don’t always read – off to the Newsletters subdirectory to be read if you can find the time or just delete unopened if you can’t. How about moving all your CC emails into a CC subdirectory and then reading them if you have time.
Very cool and worth a few minutes to set them up.
7 Ask to be removed from any “Reply to all ” thread that doesn’t apply to you.
I really hate this one. You’ve been copied into and email (again a classic CYA tactic) and can’t see why. Worse still everybody involved keeps using the dratted “Reply All” button so you’re inundated with emails that mean nothing to you. You quietly delete them and get on with your day WRONG!
Don’t accept this; politely write back and explain that you can’t add any value so it’s probably best to leave you out of discussions.
Some people might not like it (caution before you use this tactic on the boss!) but it’s fabulous for your personal brand.
So there you have it. 7 easy to do tips which when combined will help you run with an empty inbox as well as giving you a warm cuddly feeling when you go home each night.
For those of you who give this a go I’d really love to hear how you get on.