Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Declaring E-mail Bankruptcy

My dear friend Maia just published a book (can I toot my own horn and say I'm featured in it?) called The Together Teacher: Plan Ahead, Get Organized, and Save Time!. One of the things she talks about is e-mail management, and it reminded me that I am failing terribly with my e-mail management strategy these days (or lack thereof).

Here's my current strategy: 
  • Read e-mails (on my phone or computer)
  • Sometimes respond right away, sometimes not
  • Leave e-mails sitting in my inbox to wait for a response (even if they just need to be deleted)
Letting e-mails sit in my inbox waiting for a response (or waiting to be deleted) has resulted in an inbox with a whopping 6,593 e-mail messages (I just deleted one of them, so now I'm down to 6,592). 

Wow, that's embarrassing to admit. (And I'm really sorry if your message is one of them and I never got to it!). 

I need to reclaim my inbox once and for all. 

Step One: E-mail Bankruptcy
  • I am declaring what Maia refers to as "E-mail bankruptcy." But instead of deleting all the messages, I'm going to archive them in a folder called "Archive." That way, I can still search for something I need. (G-mail actually has a neat button for this, but I prefer Yahoo! because I can have several messages open at once and toggle between them.)
Step Two: Effective Inbox Management
  • I will still let myself read e-mail on my phone, but I will promise to delete it right away if it's not something I want. 
  • If it's an e-mail digest, I will move it right away to a folder entitled "To Read"  to help keep my inbox clear. I can go to that folder and read stuff when I have time.
  • If the message requires two minutes of action or less, I will take care of it as soon as I'm in front of my computer. 
  • If the message requires significant action, I will record it on my to-do list and move it to a folder entitled "Action Plan." That way, it's on my to-do list and won't just get buried under more recent messages.
Step Three: Daily Maintenance
  • At the end of every day, I should have an entirely empty e-mail inbox. I will have deleted messages I don't want, moved messages I can read at my own leisure to a folder, responded to quick messages, and made a note to follow-up on longer messages at a later date.
I'll let you know how it goes!

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eemusings said...

I am so guilty of this. In my personal email I have Codeyear and Google Power Searching course reminders right now.

At work I get an email on average once every couple of minutes (no joke) so while I do try to ignore my inbox for small stretches of time as I get on with other things, too often I click on the new email alert, read the message and then flag it to deal with later. SO INEFFICIENT.

Sarah said...

My sister urged me to do this a while back, and I went for it: select all, archive. It felt so good to only have a few emails in my inbox at a time. When my inbox says there are two unread emails, I know it's for real.

Anonymous said...

OH MY GOSH. i didn't even finish reading this before i filled over to my gmail and archived all 5,000+ emails. FREE AT LAST

Stephanie said...

I label/archive newsletters and such as "to read," which just ends up being a death sentence for them. I still do it because some day, magically, I will have time to go back and read them all, right? right???

Marking emails with PRIORITY has actually helped with the personal email situation, but for work, just about everything really is priority since I'm the only person who works full time on my program, so any flagging just gets lost in the huge pile of flags... :(

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