As the first of the year approaches, here are some great ideas to save some time with your email from email expert Randy Dean.
As a time management, productivity, and e-mail efficiency expert, I’m always looking for ways to do things better, and e-mail is something EVERYONE can do better. Here are three key strategies when it comes to managing your e-mail.
- Handle “Quick Little” E-mails Right Now. For nearly 20 years, I’ve been following a principle I originally learned from time management guru David Allen – to handle “quick little” things when they come up the very first time I look at them. This keeps you from reviewing them multiple times before taking action, as well as getting buried under these items too. I’ve been following this rule with my inbox, and I hit “e-mail zero” nearly every day! My personal rule – if I think acting on that e-mail will take 3-minutes or less, I just get it done right now! Then, I file or delete that e-mail and get it out of my inbox.
- “Task” E-mails Taking Longer. In my opinion, most e-mails are basically a task or a bundle of tasks you need to get done. You need to review. You need to reply. You need to forward. You need to take an action. You need to schedule an appointment, or create a new contact. Some of these things are quick – get those done right now! But for those e-mails that will take longer than 3-minutes, I figure out what the embedded task(s) is, and then I add it to my task list. Then, when I get “open block” time, I can prioritize the most important and/or urgent tasks and act on those as appropriate. You can task your e-mails on a paper To Do list, or use a software program like Outlook. But whatever you do, once you identify the task in the e-mail, either delete that e-mail for file it in an appropriate folder for later reference.
- Don’t Use Your E-mail Inbox as a “De Facto” Task List! Now, if you read tips #1 & #2 above, you realize I don’t like people leaving e-mails that have been read in their inbox. Here’s the simple reason why – if you are like most people, when you leave an e-mail in your inbox, it is because there is an action you still intend to take on that e-mail. But typically, that action is not clearly defined in your e-mail’s subject line, so when you come back to it three or four days later, you have to go through the entire review process again to figure out what you want/need to do. Better to define the task one time, and act on it when it reaches the top of your task list! Some people are also using their inbox as their “one and only” file folder, but then you’ll start mixing “active” e-mails with “archive” e-mails, meaning you’ll be re-reading messages that you are already done with – also not the best use of your time!
If your e-mail has been driving you crazy, I strongly encourage you to incorporate several of the tips above into your daily e-mail habits. I know you will find extra minutes of productivity daily, which will add up to hours per week/month/year.
Randy Dean is the author of the recent Amazon.com #1 E-mail Bestseller, Taming the E-mail Beast: 45 Key Strategies for Better Managing Your E-mail Overload. To learn more about what Randy can do for you and your organization, visit his website.