Keys to Managing
Don't Check First Thing in the Morning
Checking email before you have a chance to determine your goals for the day can put you in a reactive mode. Instead, start your day by determining your priorities and use this time to focus on your most important tasks. You'll start your day off proactively and have the whole rest of the day to catch up on whatever is in your email Inbox.
Only Check Periodically
Constantly checking your email breaks your concentration and disrupts your productivity, so try to resist the urge to respond to emails as they pop up. Instead, set aside regular times a day to open and process email. For example, you could decide to open your email each day at around 10 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm. You may even want to turn your email alarm off so you aren't constantly distracted.
Create email folders and label them just like you would for files in your regular file cabinet. Then, move emails you want to refer to later into their designated folders. For example, you may want to create an email folder labeled "Travel" for messages and confirmations relating to upcoming trips. If you aren't sure how to create email folders, Google "Creating Email Folders" for Outlook, Gmail, or Apple to find one of the many YouTube videos that demonstrates how.
During your designated email time, don't just "check" email -- decide what needs to be done. Process your email by selecting one of these four actions:
Much of what you receive can probably be deleted. Getting these messages out of your Inbox allows you to see what you actually need to attend to. And don't worry about losing access to emails you delete. You can always use the Search function in your email program to find emails you sent or deleted and later want to view. Also, be aware of long threads of emails. Keep only the last email that has the entire conversation and delete the rest.
If the email requires an action you can do in 2 minutes or less, just do it! Much of your email probably can be handled quickly. For example, the message may be one you can quickly read and file in an email folder. Or it may only require a simple answer. Whenever possible, use quick responses like "Thanks", "Got it", "Yes", or "I will" to save time.
Some messages you receive can be delegated to others. After you forward the email that you are delegating, delete it from your Inbox or move it into your email folder system for later follow up if necessary.
For emails that require more than 2 minutes to do, you may need to complete the action required after you are done processing your email. You can defer emails that require an action by dragging the message to your Task List. Your email program will let you set a date and time to be reminded to do the task so you won't forget about it. After the task has been put on your task list, delete the original message from your Inbox.
Follow the 4 D's for every message you receive and you'll empty your Inbox before you know it. For older messages, you'll need to set aside some time to go through them but it will be worth the peace of mind you'll achieve.