Are you guilty of committing email sin?? Do you have more than a screen full of emails in your inbox? Do you even possibly have emails in your inbox unread?? And, maybe, some emails from 1, 2, 3…… or more years ago????

If this is you then you either need to take an email management course – today, right this minute – or you need to start putting in place some quick actions. Chances are you have probably missed some important deadlines, or even some potential leads, and that in itself should be enough for you to sort your inbox out toot-suite!

About 12 years ago I attended a 2-hour training course about good email management and it was a great foundation for today when I have about 15 different inboxes to keep on top of.

So, how can you make sure you are seeing what you need, receiving what you need and keeping on top of the inbox?

  1. Approach emails (and actually any comms that come in) with “one touch”. Basically – as soon as you open it, deal with it. Be that replying, filing, deleting – try to only touch each communication once wherever possible. I treat emails the same way as post – I open it the day it comes in and deal with it. I see no point in picking it up from the doormat and moving it to a side in the kitchen, to then move it to the office later on and re-pick it up at the weekend – still unopened.
  2. If you need to do more work on it – flag it so you know it needs attention. Outlook has a great system for categorising – if you have it, use it.
  3. Use the unsubscribe button on any email that you find no value from. Or mark it as junk and clear the junk folder once a week. I send most circulars to junk, and then scan through the junk file once a week before clearing it just to make sure I have ‘junked’ the right things!
  4. Set up files – never leave actionned emails in your inbox – either file them (if you are sure you need them again) or delete them. I tend to file emails the same way as any paper based filing so the two can cross reference.
  5. Cut and paste emails into diary entries – then once it is in the diary you can delete the email. The calendar is a great place for keeping data relevant to the appointment and makes it a lot quicker than having to search back through emails. If you use outlook then you can even turn the email into a calendar invite without having to copy or paste a thing – just click on the meeting button and send it to yourself to make it go automatically into your diary.
  6. Put a time in your diary each morning and each evening to clear inboxes and work on emails. Emails should not be a continuous distraction – instead schedule time to work on them and get them cleared down. I find 3 x 30 minutes’ slots per day is enough to keep on top of all my emails – morning, lunchtime-ish and end of the day. I also have an hour a day to do deep work so any emails I have flagged as needing more work can be picked up then.

Email is a great part of your life that can be easily outsourced. If you are fed up with your never-ending inbox, then have a look through the directory at the Virtual Assistants and consider getting some support on it, or even delegating it completely.