Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mastering E-mail Management

Ah e-mail . . . the never ending task in this day in age.  I just finished cleaning out the 4 e-mail accounts I manage.  It got waaay out of control!  How?  Simple:  I got too busy and was not good about keeping up on my e-mail routines.  When that happens, I simply need to pay the price of doing a big cleanup.  While Inbox Zero may not always be achievable on a daily basis, my goal is to achieve it on a weekly basis  In my experience, I have observed a few different approaches to e-mail:

1)  The person that just never checks e-mail.  You know who they are, they never respond to any e-mails, even seemingly important correspondence.  E-mail is just simply not part of their life.  I recently asked someone, "oh - did you see the e-mail about such-and-such?"  The response?  "No. I don't check e-mails."  I am actually a bit envious!  Ok, a lot envious! How lovely it would be to simply chop e-mail management from my life. Oh - and the annoying part of this - is if you are awaiting a response from an e-mail non-checker, without knowing they are a non-checker.  You wait, and wait . . . and wait.  You might even think they are rude or simply don't care about whatever you are awaiting response from.  This may actually be the case, but before you make assumptions, it would be good to see what the preferred mode of communication with this individual is, especially if it is someone in one of your closer circles of influence and community.  They may respond better in person, or via call/text. Just as it can be helpful to know someones learning style, know their preferred communication style.

2)  The E-Mail Lover.  Their primary mode of communication is over e-mail.  They may send multiple e-mails regarding the same subject.  You can tell they check e-mail often on their cell phones, given the quick & usually succinct responses.  This can be a very good thing - they are usually great about responding.  It can also have a drawback if they don't key in to the fact that not everyone communicates well over e-mail.

3)  The Delayed Responder.  They are overwhelmed, yet pretty good about following through.  The responses are usually proceeded with "Sorry for the delayed response!" or similar sayings.  They will get to that e-mail . . . eventually.  I have been guilty in this category!

It does not need to be the impossible task though!  E-mail can be managed and mastered, with some key practices.

A)  Purge Daily & Check Routinely:  Make it a daily habit.  If you can't keep up daily, do a weekly purge at the least.

B)  Set Up Take Action & Archive Folders:  Your "Take Action" folder should now be the priority folder.  Take care of these items before you hit your inbox.  Consider this folder the folder of actionable work that needs attention every time you are in your e-mail box.   Not sure if you should keep an e-mail?  Stick it in an "Archive" folder for safe keeping.

C)  Consider a "Inbox #2":  This little tip comes courtesy of my husband.  Set up an "Inbox #2" where the majority of ALL of your e-mail goes to.  Then, determine who the senders are whom you actually want to receive e-mails from: key individuals, schools, family members etc.  That way you are only focusing on the truly important ones.  You can check #2 as well, but you are first alerted to the ones you care about most.  This technique is great for personal e-mails, but probably won't work so well for business e-mails.

D)  When Necessary, Declare E-Mail Bankruptcy!  I just had to do this with the account I use for junk mail.  I never check this account.  I just use it for when I have to give it to a retailer for a discount, only checking in when I need a coupon or similar transactions.  I had 20,993 messages in my Inbox and only 209 messages in my Junk Folder.  After this clear out, my plan going forward is to clear out the account once a month, only checking when necessary for coupons and the like. Outlook offers a "Sweep" function, wherein you can delete all e-mails at once from a particular sender.  Tip:  Click on the top check box to select all messages in view, then click Sweep.  That way you can Sweep messages from multiple senders at once.  Other e-mail systems should have similar functions.

Michael Hyatt has some great tips on Declaring E-mail Bankruptcy, including signs you need to do it, HERE.

Here's a clip of Michael Scott of The Office declaring Bankruptcy - applies to e-mail Bankruptcy too!:

Note:  There are also numerous e-mail management software options out there.  If your e-mail volume is so high, yet needs attention, you may want to consider one of these tools.  Here are some links with some options for both personal and business applications.