Inbox Management – Seven Steps to Inbox Heaven, Never read an email twice!
Establishing good habits at work starts at your front door. You can implement these 7 simple steps including the 3 Ds in your inbox management today and start unlocking the lost hours of productivity in your day. Apply these rules today to take control of your inbox.
Success Habit # 5 DO IT – DUMP IT – Or DELEGATE IT.
That’s the 3 Ds of Inbox Management.
This article is a 7 step guide to managing your inbox and regaining control over your lost time.
This set of real-life Inbox ‘hacks’ will get you out of the never ending email cycle forever. It has been well tested and used by myself and others for years. It is not just another Inbox Zero dream, it works!
First you need to accept a few concepts that may be difficult for some people to grasp.
1. Your Inbox is not your job
2. You do not have to read everything that is sent to you
3. You do have control over what people send you
If you can accept these simple truths, you are ready to move on to the next steps that will release you from your inbox..!
Step 1. This is what I like to call Culling the CCrap.
In your Inbox make a new folder for filing emails that you are not required to read immediately, and give it an appropriate name. I call mine CCRAP. Now set up an email rule* to move to this folder and mark as read all emails that you receive with you in the CC (Carbon Copy) and BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) address line. This will get rid of between 30% – 50% of your emails in one simple step. Don’t panic – these emails are not gone, just filed in an appropriately named folder for when/if you ever need them.
Caution: don’t forget to tell everyone in your team to put you in the TO: line only if you have an action to perform and the CC: line if it is for your reference. My advice is to ban the use of BCC altogether – after 18 years of email, I still have not found a justifiable use for it.
Step 2. Sorting out your News Feeds.
We all have subscriptions to news bulletins of some variety or memberships to rewards programs that we don’t want to unsubscribe from because we like to read them and keep up to date or not miss some special offer. The problem is they arrive in your inbox at all times of the day and distract you from the real tasks. You can fix this forever by setting up a new folder with an appropriate name, mine is called FFODDER, directing all feeds there so you can read them first thing in the morning when you want to, and have time. To do this set an email rule* to move and mark as read (optional) all RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds that you receive to the folder you set up. This will eliminate another 10% of your email traffic and allow you to focus your attention on reading blogs when you want to, not when they publish.
Step 3. Done and Dusted in one click.
Many of us like to use our Inbox as a bit of a To Do list. If you do this, you will most likely be using the Flag in the system to highlight those emails requiring your action and then using the Tick to mark them completed. You then need to move them out of your inbox or they stay in a never-ending list of completed emails for you to sort through when something goes wrong. Try this small change in your procedure and see how much more effective you become. Once again you need to create a new folder to store all the emails that have had actions completed, mine is called DDONE and it holds all the email conversations that required an action from me that are now completed. It makes a great source of reference. Now set up a Quick-Step* action that marks a flagged email complete and then files it in the DDONE folder. You can now use a single click to complete and file or even set up a keyboard short-cut, like Ctrl-D for Done.
Now that have some basic tools and filters in place we can start our inbox management steps.
Step 4. Commit to responding to your emails three times a day.
First thing in the morning before your first meeting, either just before or just after your lunch and in the afternoon at around 3:30 – 4:00pm. Your team will soon get used to your responses being delivered in batches that allow them time to finish their work and you’ll all be more productive.
Step 5. Apply the 3 Ds each time you respond to emails.
Read through your inbox items by subject and sender only and apply the 3 Ds to prioritise them.
It works like this.
Read sender and subject – Who is it from? What do I have to do?
If there is an action for me, it is a DO IT email – flag it as an item to do.
If there is no action or reply needed, it is a DUMP IT email – move it to CCRAP or delete it.
If there is an action for someone in my team, it is a DELEGATE IT email – forward the email to your delegate with clear steps outlining your expectation and anticipated deadline. Note: you can delegate an item to yourself in the future by dragging and dropping the email to a date in your calendar.
When you are finished, you should have your list of items that need your action. Using the Quick step action you created in Step 4 you can action each item and then complete/file it in DDONE and move on to the next.
Note: You can read and prioritise your messages as they arrive, at your desk, on your tablet and even on your phone while waiting for take-off but if you respond to every email as and when it arrives you will be living in your inbox.
Step 6. Don’t ask questions in emails.
If you are asked questions in emails, do not respond to them by email. When you are asked a question via email answer it or seek clarification using a communication method at least one rung up the ladder from email. This means pick up the phone and talk to them, or Skype them or go and see them face-to-face. Anything else will result in an email straight back – every time.
Step 7. Kill email conversations altogether.
Email is a tool for delivering a message, document or file to one or more recipients at best. It is definitely not a method for having a conversation. If you respond to or forward a message and you get a reply that either asks more questions, seeks clarification, or is misunderstood – leave email altogether and use another method to get your message across. Even better is to not respond to emails at all by email – the art of talking needs reviving.
*If you need assistance setting up any of the suggestions in this article, comment below and instructions will be sent through. I hope you start to use these hacks and get your productive time back from your inbox and you too can never read an email twice.
Steven Brett is the Director of Manage Smart, a Sydney based consultancy focussed on customer experience and customer relationship development. He holds a degree in Applied Management and consults to the Customer Service Institute of Australia. Steven is able to speak at corporate events and functions, when available, on this and other customer centric topics.
Web: www.managesmart.com.au Email: firstname.lastname@example.org