There’s only one thing I hate worse than mopping the floors…
…and that’s dealing with the endless emails that come into my inbox.
I’m not talking about the stupid once-in-a-lifetime-do-it-right-now-or-die kinds of emails, I’m talking about the legitimate things you need to deal with. Things like requests from vendors, employees and contractors. Or “what do you want for your birthday” emails from Mom.
If you know anyone that sends email (and I’m sure you do), you are dealing with this too. So here are a couple of tips I’ve developed that can help you attack and process your email with ease.
Email attack strategy #1 – Turn off Send/Receive. Let’s get real. You don’t really need to check your email the second it comes in. Not even a little bit. Turn off your automatic send/receive and check your email manually several times a day. You will feel more in control, people will stop assuming that the second you receive an email you will respond and you finally get a chance to breathe.
Email attack strategy #2 – Maintain multiple email addresses. Want to instantly clean up your inbox? Get an email address just for specific areas of your life. For example, I have an email just for newsletters, one for internal communications with my team (that nobody else knows), one for use with clients, and one for my friends and family. It’s a total breeze to know which emails to look at first.
Email attack strategy #3 – Auto-sort into folders. Now that you have all those extra email addresses, why have a big fat inbox when you can auto-sort them into folders. This is an especially useful feature of Outlook (Entourage if you have a Mac). Just set up a rule for incoming mail and it will automatically go into the appropriate folder. Now newsletters won’t be mixed up with really important email.
Email attack strategy #4 – Color code it. Some email programs have a color coding feature that makes email fun and easy to work with. You can color code emails from a particular person, through a specific account or with specific words in them.
Email attack strategy #5 – Sort by name or subject before you look at it. This is probably the biggest distraction that people have with email. You look at the first email, and it’s about subject #1. You start to think about that subject and then go on to the next email. It’s about subject #2. And on and on until you have so many thoughts filling your head, you’re exhausted. Sorting by the person’s name or subject before you process your email will keep you thinking about the person or subject until the entire set of messages is gone. This one is a real brain saver!
Email attack strategy #6 – The Preview Procrastination. What is the biggest enemy of email programs? If you’re using Outlook, it’s called the “reading pane”. Yep, it’s a “pain” alright. It allows you to preview your email before you reply. Most of us scan the email, put together a reply in our head and never actually get around to doing the actual reply. Then we carry all that “have to” information in our head and procrastinate about responding to email because we think we’re doing it twice! Turn off preview and reading pane now.
Email attack strategy #7 – Reply, Schedule, File or Delete. Now that the reading pane is off and your email is sorted, you’re ready to go. Get the email in front of you, and do one of the following: reply, schedule a task or appointment, file it or delete it. NEVER move on and say “I’ll get back to this one.” You won’t. If you don’t know what to do with it, put it in an I Don’t Know folder but don’t leave it in your inbox.
Email attack strategy #8 – Early or Late, but NEVER before bed. Email before bed? Uggghhh! Don’t do it. Enough said.
Email attack strategy #9 – Set a timer and get it done! If email procrastination is running your life, set a timer before you start. With your sorting done and process in hand, getting through the email in chunks is better than leaving it for later. Later never comes. Instead, set your timer for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, you’re done. Do it again later in the day if you have to. You’ll feel a certain sense of relief.
Technology is supposed to be your friend – not your enemy. Don’t let it get you – let it work FOR you!
Do you have any other Attack Strategies I can add to my list?