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Quick Email Organizing Tricks

Endless Mail CartoonEmail can be overwhelming to manage and organize.  Here are a few email management tips might be just what you need to add some time back in your day.

1. No email retail – If you choose to follow just one of the tips in this article, this is it. Setup a new free email box like Gmail or Yahoo just for stores, ads and orders and start using it.  When I started using a different address for retail, I noticed a significant drop in my number of messages.  After you have setup your “retail box,” set aside some time to go through your current retail subscriptions and change your existing address from all of the companies that are using your email. (There is usually a link at the bottom of all retail ads to unsubscribe or to change your email).  Only check your new retail email account when placing orders, and place all of your order confirmations in a file that you can refer to until delivery of your order.   You can also use this new box as a reference tool for coupon codes before placing orders. Be sure to give out this email address at the cashier in retail stores when they ask you for one.  This new box can be cleaned out easily once a month or quarter.  I like to do mine when I pay bills at the first of the month.

2. Stop the Email Reaction – If you feel like your email manages you instead of you managing it, stop tethering yourself to it. Don’t read your email first thing in the morning before breakfast.  When you do, you are letting someone else or something else setup and prioritize your day.  I have also found that checking my email first thing in the morning sets the day off to a much more stressful tone.  It is much more productive for you to schedule times during the day to read your email.  This will seem odd at first and will take some adjustment.  However, when you schedule time you will notice that you are more productive in your email response time and in your other tasks as well.

3. Pavlov’s Dog – Remember Pavlov’s dog and its “conditional reflex” – the conditional reflex is something we do without even thinking about it.  Email has turned into a conditional reflex for most of us with all of its bells, whistles or “You’ve got mail” sounds that we use to notify us of a new message.  These sounds make us react instantly without thought to what we are currently working on or who we are with.  So, turn off all bells and whistles and notice how much you can accomplish!!  If your response to this is, “I can multi-task.”  It has been proven by several scientific studies  that multi-tasking makes you lose productivity and efficiency.  Every time you switch tasks (even if it is just to look down at the pop-up notification on your screen), you lose momentum and therefore lose some efficiency.

5.  Keep your contacts up to date – Be sure to add important messengers to your address book to ensure that you will continue to receive their messages.  This is especially true for emails, newsletters and emails sent to large groups of people.  For example, you should add sara@configurationconnection to your address list now!  Important information and dates could be missed if they end up in your Junk e-mail file.

4. Reading Email Efficiently – (This same technique should also be used on all paper that enters your home) – You really should touch and read each email only once.  If you save it, you will read it again and again and again.  Using the folders and categories options in email are a necessity.  This is true for personal and professional email boxes.  When processing email, you should use the following decision making process for each one:

Delete – this key should be used if you don’t need it, won’t refer to it or you can find it somewhere else.

2 minute rule – if your response or reaction to the email will take less than 2 minutes, you should process it now.  Coming back to it later will require more time.  If items will take more than two minutes, you should assign it a due date so that you know it will be addressed.   So, these items are added to your To Do List.

Waiting on Someone else – Categories are very useful for this or you can setup a folder.  This breakdown of your email will help you quickly find messages and can be used as a tool for reminders.  For example, each of my children has a folder and a category color (in Outlook).  When I receive messages from teachers with class updates, I quickly review them and add them to the folder.  However, if the message contains information that I must act on, I keep the message in my inbox and I assign it the child’s color.  This reminds me that I need to ask them about the message I received from the teacher.

File – This should be used for items that you will need to reference in the future.  For example, financial records, emails from teachers, coaches or committee leaders.

Organizing and managing your email better can lower your stress levels and help make you more productive.  For more email management tips and techniques, I recommend David Allen’s book titled Getting Things Done.

 –          By:  Sara Genrich, Professional Organizer & Productivity Consultant.

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