How often do you look at an email and think hmm, this belongs in both folder A and B. Then you think, but will I remember which one it is in? Results, it just sits in the inbox. There is an easy solution. Make a copy and place it in both folders. Here is how for Outlook users.
1. Highlight the email in the usual way.
2. Hold down the right mouse button and drag it to the first folder of choice.
3. Release the right mouse button and from the drop down menu which appears choose ‘Copy’.
One word of warning – if the email has a large attachment and you have a mailbox limit, make sure you remove it and save it outside your inbox. Otherwise you will very soon use up your valuable storage space.
For Gmail users, give the email two ‘Labels’ and move it to one of the corresponding folders. It will then be visible in both folders corresponding to those labels.
For many dealing with the holiday email back-log is one of the most stressful aspects of taking a break. More stressful some say than, losing your luggage, having to look after aging parents or fractious children. It compels them to stay connected even although it might adversely impact their holiday (as Lucy Kellaway recently found).
Last week Daimler introduced an email programme which automatically deletes employees emails when they are on leave. It sends a message to the sender asking them to re-send the email if it is important after the recipient is back.
The Daimler system is sophisticated and most companies are not in a position to implement such a system but take heart there are other options. The key thing to remember is that technology alone will never cure email overload whatever some software providers say.
The real cure for email overload lies in changing our email behaviour. It is about re-thinking how we use email and curing what has become the hidden disease of 21st century working life – email and data addiction.
In the short term or those either going on holiday or just returning to work, there are some simple things you can do.
1) Before you go – housekeeping
Before you go away do some basic email housekeeping to clean up your inbox. For example, clear out all the old emails and set some filters to remove all the new but unnecessary emails (eg newsletters). Most email software allows you to set two different Out of Office messages. So for your internal emails, set a message similar to the Daimler system one. Indeed this is what many executives already do.
For more tips on how to clean up your inbox before going on leave see earlier posts.
2) On your return – talk and talk again
On your return, talk, talk and talk again before you even touch your inbox. This gives you an overview of anything that really needs your attention. Then and only then tackle the inbox. Triage it and deal only with the really vital emails.
For more tips see our seven step plan to reduce the holiday email overload.
3) Declare email bankruptcy
As for the rest, declare email bankruptcy. Delete the lot. If anything is that important you can be sure the sender will re-contact you.
The result – freedom from email holiday overload and the need to stay connected. Of course in the longer term you need to implement an email management change programme to better educate your colleagues about how to reduce email overload generally. For help changing the email culture do call us to hear how Mesmo Consultancy’s Brilliant Email Management masterclasses have helped other organisations like yours.
Meanwhile, what is your top tip for reducing the holiday email overload backlog? Is the Daimler approach better than staying connected?
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.
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.