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Spring clean your inbox to reduce email overload stress

Posted Saturday April 12th, 2014, 4:21 pm by

The boss asks you what happened to the email from Client A who says they are still waiting for a reply.  Panic sets in because you know you saw the email but now it’s lost somewhere in your bulging inbox.  It has happened to most of us at some point in our digital lives.

The challenge is to reduce the risk of it happening too often.  With the pressure of year end over and with spring in the air, now is a great time to reduce email overload stress by dusting down your inbox.  There are some who profess to being able to work effectively in chaos but for most of us having some order in our lives helps improve performance.  A clean inbox makes a great foundation to bring order to your inbox and limit the risk of an email disaster by missing an important email.

For each new email which pops into your inbox (often uninvited), your aim to is ensure it is handled once and once only.  That is to say, you apply one of the four Ds and if the option is ‘Defer’ ensure you have a fail safe process for keeping track on when you will action it.  Your inbox should be ‘work in hand’.  Yet over the last month I have heard tales of people with 1,000+ emails lingering in the inbox.  Little wonder some emails go unread and unanswered.

For those who want to do a really deep inbox clean up you can follow the Clean Inbox Week programme.  For those who want the quick flick of the duster approach here are seven easy steps.

  1. Set aside a defined amount of time for this exercise, for example one hour.  Don’t let yourself get distracted by anyone.

    Clean inbox - quick dust down

    Clean inbox – a quick dusting

  2. Sort by subject and person and delete all those old chains.  For those with Outlook 2013 use the View by Thread options.
  3. Flag (or create a task from) any emails which still need action and move them to a separate ‘Pending’ folder.
  4. Move to a relevant folder, blocks of emails from the same person, related to a specific project etc.
  5. Delete all the trivial emails and newsletters (they are old and past their sell by date).
  6. Move all the remaining emails over a week old into a separate folder, eg called ‘Old’.  Start this folder with a full stop ‘.’ and it will sit at the top of the folder list. You might also add it to your Favorites to make it easy to find.
  7. Review your progress when time is up and move onto the next task.  If needs be set aside time in the coming weeks to continue to dust down and clean out the Old emails folder.

Now with a relatively empty inbox apply the 4Ds to each new email as it arrives and implement a process for you that will help you keep track of the emails which have outstanding actions.

If you feel you and your colleagues would benefit from more better email management, please do contact us about Mesmo Consultancy’s Brilliant Email Masterclasses.  Over the last month we have helped many clients save 45 minutes plus per day dealing with their email.




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