Mastering Your Inbox

Some of our readers may remember when email was still so rare that it was actually exciting to hear the AOL voice say, “You’ve got mail!” People even sought out fun email notifications.

Of course, as email usage grew rapidly, we had to mute our computers to avoid the annoying “ding” of email notifications. But even then, there’s the constant checking – for some it’s become an addiction! How can we be productive when we spend so much time checking our email?

Given that we can’t pull the plug on email altogether, here are some tips on how to master your inbox.

  • No notifications! As discussed last week (Need Help Staying Focused?), start by turning off all email notifications – no sounds, icons, etc. Alternatively, you can close your email program until you decide to check for updates.
  • Establish an organizational framework to file your emails. A crowded inbox makes it harder to find the email you’re looking for.  You can set up folders for clients (individually or collectively), marketing campaigns, internal communications, and more.
  • You can use your email program to add flags or other color-coding to emails that you need to follow up on.
  • Filters are your friends. Most email programs will let you create filters (or rules) to auto-sort incoming emails.  A great way to use filters is to send all newsletters to a “Newsletter” folder so that you can read them in a single sitting.
  • Or, you can simply unsubscribe from newsletters and other emails where you don’t find value.

You may have heard of the OHIO strategy (Only Handle It Once).  Develop the habit of dealing with each email only one time: respond to it immediately; pick a time to respond to it later, file it away or delete it. It takes some discipline, but you’ll soon see your inbox shrink and your productivity grow.

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