Today we receive more business email messages than ever before. A mind numbing amount of incoming mail clutters our inbox, destroys our time management and interrupts our personal time. Here are three tried-and-true strategies for controlling, organizing and managing your inbox to help you keep your head above water:
1. Automatically sort email. By setting up rules within your email program, you can automatically move emails into specific folders. For Outlook users, go to “Rules” and set up your automatic moves. For instance, if you receive a lot of emails from a certain sender, create a folder just for those particular emails and then set up a reminder to check the folder periodically. Or, for emails that you routinely forward to a staff member, set up a rule to automatically forward those emails. This will clear the way for the important emails: those from clients and prospects.
2. Plan your email time. Instead of keeping your inbox open all day, check your inbox periodically throughout the day. If your email inbox is left open, you may get a notification with each new message. You may feel compelled to reply on the spot, even if you’re in the middle of something else. To stay productive (without interruption), open your email every two hours or three times a day. Allocate a few minutes to reading, responding, deleting and moving emails to folders for later reading.
3. Treat your emails like old-school mail. Back in the day, when the USPS delivered piles of mail, firms with support staff would assign someone to sort it. That person would distribute the important pieces of mail and dispose of the junk mail. Today, the principal of a firm can get so much email that it’s impossible to address it all and still do the work for which they get paid. Have a support staff member de-clutter your inbox. Or have your computer automatically sort your email (see #1).
Email is a huge problem because it distracts us from the real work we need to get done. If we can get a handle on the inflow of email, we may just be able to do more actual work.
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Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, go to www.redzonemarketing.com.