Brought To You By Emily Parks
Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
Helping You Make Every Minute Matter!

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's Sitting In Your Email Inbox?

If someone were to peer over your shoulder right now to look at your email Inbox, what would that person find? Do you keep just about everything received in your Inbox, making it such that you have several hundred emails in there right now? Do you keep action items in your Inbox, meaning the number of messages varies depending on how many items would fall on your to-do list? Well, here's a little tidbit that I've found can have an immense impact on increasing one's productivity: Your email Inbox is definitely not your to-do list. I recommend using your email Inbox as exactly that... an "In Box". New items funnel through as needed while action items are moved accordingly. A brief glimpse at how that concept plays out day-to-day is as follows:

- What has yet to be read is what remains in your email Inbox, an area to be dealt with when most convenient for you so that you control your technology rather than your technology controlling you.
- Any action that can be completed in less than 5 minutes after reading the corresponding email should be done at that time, particularly since it's common in such instances for the time to re-engage in the action to take longer than simply doing the action when first made aware it needs to be done.
- What requires more action gets moved to your electronic to-do list by creating a Task with subject indicating action and with a due date included OR to your paper to-do list by adding to your notebook of action items, a running data dump of to-do items, assigning to your daily tasks when appropriate.
- What indicates an upcoming appointment or specific time commitment gets moved to Calendar, allowing the subject to convey what action is to happen and outlining its set date, time and location.
- What has been completed but might need to be referenced later gets moved to Personal Folders, naming those Personal Folders to mirror your paper + electronic file management systems.

When adopting this approach, it's important to note that simply dragging an email from the Inbox to Tasks or Calendar folders will just copy the item in question, not actually moving it, unlike dragging an email to any of the Personal Folders for retention. Instead, to create a new Task or a new appointment in the Calendar, either right-click on the email in the Inbox or double-click to open it and click the "Move to Folder" link for selecting the appropriate folder, i.e. Tasks or Calendar. Once the email is officially moved, it's important to adjust the included components to accurately convey desired information (like Subject line to action or appointment description, Due Date, Location and Recurrence fields). And always hit Save when done.

At the end of each day, there should be no more than 10 emails sitting in your email Inbox. Following the approach above will get you there, but remembering how the Delete key is your friend will make it even easier... If it's a notification of something that has passed or if it's something you can find elsewhere (like on the sender's website), there is no need to keep that email. What is your current approach to processing emails arriving in your Inbox? Do you think adopting this approach might make life a little easier?
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