The 5 Step Process I Use to Manage my Email Inbox
1. Delete it: The first step to a clean inbox is to delete the message if at all possible. This is for messages that don’t require a reply for instance or are for information purposes only. Once you read the message, if it doesn’t require any faction from you, delete it. Examples: advertisements, daily newsletters, jokes, group or chain emails.
2. Deposit it: If the email doesn’t require any action from you but you cannot delete it because you need to save it for archival purposes, then immediately move the email to an archive folder. If you need to refer to the email later, you can simply use your email program’s search function to find it in one of your archive folders. Examples: I try to keep my archive folders to a minimum. Typically these include a folder for parent emails, Team or department emails (If you are on several teams or departments, it’s okay to create a subfolder for each if you’d like), a CYA folder (for any email that I am saving because doing so covers my assets), and a general archive folder for everything else.
3. Deal with it: If the email requires an action from you, deal with it right away. Craft a reply, forward the information, or write a response and then immediately delete or deposit the email. Examples: Requests for information, parent concerns or complaints, information that needs your acknowledgment, requests for your opinion, or requests for meetings or appointments.
4. Delay it: If the email requires an action from you but you cannot respond right away, delay the action for a specific time. Many email programs allow you to flag an email and set a reminder to will deal with the email later. If you choose to delay a response, make sure that you schedule a time within the week to address the email. Examples: Newsletters you plan to read later, requests for information that require a bit of research, or emails that require a longer or more thoughtful response.
5. Delegate it: If the email requires an action but that action does not need to come from you, forward the email to someone who can better address it. Examples: Questions outside the scope of your responsibilities or expertise, or requests for information someone else can provide.
By using this system to deal with each new email that is currently in your inbox, you can quickly clean out your inbox and start the new year with a clean inbox. Use this time to practice this system so that it becomes a habit and you will never face an overflowing inbox again.
What do you do to manage your inbox? We’re always collecting new time-saving and sanity saving tips so if you have one, please share it below.