I walked into the office, my first day at my new job. The air smelled crisp like my mom's workplace always had. The office was full as we all faced our computers typing and sipping on our coffee. I'd just taken a position as the marketing coordinator for a bad ass company in town. I logged into my hand-me-down email address and my eyes grew twice their size at the overwhelming amount of already read e-mails just hanging out in my inbox.
That was the first moment that I realized everyone doesn't organize their e-mail inboxes the way that I do.
Up to this point I'd either worked at a coffee shop or been self-employed. My inbox was the only one my eyes had ever needed to pay attention to. That was until I inherited someone else's system and that system did not work for me.
So, if you find yourself losing e-mails, forgetting to respond to people, feeling overwhelmed at the very notion of checking your e-mail account, then you've come to the right place. I'm sharing my system for e-mail management with you today. Hopefully this helps and feel free to send any questions you may have my way.
Once you've responded to an e-mail, archive it! The cleaner you keep your inbox the easier it is to keep track of what you need to respond to. In my inbox I only keep e-mails that require some sort of action from me that I haven't done yet. This way I always know what I have lingering in the air. E-mails like this include: bills to pay, e-mails I've yet to respond to, newsletters that I want to read, e-mails asking me to do a specific task, etc. If I've done the task, responded to the e-mail or if it doesn't need anything from me, I archive it.
Archived e-mails aren't gone forever, you can find them simply by searching your inbox. So, why keep them in sight if they've already served their purpose?
Create folders if you want to keep track of something specific.
If you are waiting for a response and you can't forget to remind them, make a folder for that. Instead of archiving your e-mails, send them to that folder. If you receive a newsletter that continuously provides you with information that you want to be able to reference easily, create a folder for that. Do you have a project that you are working on and need to keep track of the correspondence? Make a folder for that!
Designate time for e-mailing.
I try my best to only write e-mails first thing in the morning and the last thing before I end my day. This allows me to control the way my to-do list goes. If I were e-mailing and responding to the tasks associated with e-mails all day long, my entire workday would be reactive and I would get nothing done. This also keeps e-mail from being a monster that feels unconquerable and helps me to not get so disenchanted with it that I stop responding all together.
Put the tasks on your to-do list.
If you have e-mails hanging out with things that you need to do for them, write those down on your to-do list if they aren't things you can do right away. Then do your best to wrap all of those up at the end of the week.
I'm not going to tell you that I respond perfectly to every e-mail or that I finish every single task associated with my e-mail before the week's end. But, I try and having it as a goal makes it a whole lot more likely that I will accomplish it.
I will also tell you that an empty inbox feels really really good.
Do you have any great e-mail tricks that you'd like to share? Any questions about my system, share them in the comments below, I'd love to chat!
Sarajane Case is a dreamer, a doer, a lover, a writer, a photographer, and Asheville local among other things. Follow her adventures at sarajaneblog.com