Friends and acquaintances of mine always say they are struggling to process their emails and think I spend ages in my inbox to get it to Zero. Most people would rather not deal with their emails than find an efficient way of going through their inbox daily. They imagine it to be a complex process to keep your inbox neat, but this is not so. To learn about inbox zero, check out my previous blog post. Today I want to tell you how to process your incoming emails quickly and efficiently.
I check my emails once a day, I look at each email once and then decide the following: Does it need a reply? Do I need to refer to it again? Am I waiting for action from another person or confirmation of dates and or figures before I can reply? Can I delete the email?
I put all emails that need a response in the Action This Day folder to be tackled sometime the same day.
All emails that I might need to refer to again go in the reference folder so that I can refer back at any time.
Emails that are waiting for a response from a third party before I can reply to the sender go in the Waiting For folder.
All other emails get deleted. These could be round robins, newsletters, information on events that I attended or just short messages from friends that tell nothing of substance.
Why do I only have one reference folder rather than individual folders for each person I write to and each project that I am involved in? There is a simple answer. One it takes too long to sort each email into a separate folder and two, you don’t need to as search functions have become so good in most email programs.
Some people install filters so that emails get sent straight to a designated folder such as newsletters to the newsletter folder or letters from your parents to the parents’ folder, rather than your inbox. I don’t do that because it means that emails are out of sight and out of mind.
It takes me about 5-10 minutes each day to go through my inbox. So don’t tell me you don’t have time to do the same, you do! Obviously answering emails takes a bit longer, but that depends on how many I need to respond to.