Professional Organizing Tips and Resources.
Email is a lot like regular mail. The best practices involve handling your email just as you would with ‘paper', touch it only once.
Collect in one ‘In-Box’ and clean it out daily. Open and decide on each message right away and preferably with the trash bin in site.
If you find yourself reading all your emails in a row and then afterwards re-reading the important ones and only then respond or perhaps sometimes letting hours or days pass before returning them or forgetting about them altogether try applying the “one-touch” rule.
For example, if an email comes in that requires no return mail and no follow up file it away in its appropriate folder or delete it immediately.
If something comes in that requires you to take action soon, yet not at the very moment, make a calendar or task appointment to remind you to take action when you know you will have time, and then immediately following this file away the email into it’s appropriate folder.
It is important to note that spending time to set up good folder systems within your email, just like with paper files, to find the information again later when you need it will become imperative.
For emails that regularly come in yet you know in advance that they will not require your immediate attention and can be put off until you require the information, such as newsletters or the odd report, set your email with a “Rule” to file away the email into the appropriate folder automatically.
You can then look at these when you have time or even set a reoccurring calendar appointment to remind you to check it when you know you will have time to do so.
If you do get an email and the sender is in need of a response sooner than you know you will be able to give an appropriate one, try not to leave them stranded, wondering if their email was overlooked or forgotten. I brief response to them advising them as to when they can expect a proper answer will let them know their request has been noticed and you are prioritizing effectively. They will generally be more apt to wait patiently until they hear from you again.
As things are easier said then done, be sure that you set an appropriate reminder for yourself to get back to people when you said you would. Give yourself a bit of a buffer if you feel you need it too, because as they say “It is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver”.
And the trick to keeping your inbox empty… set yourself up with simple but relevant ‘folders’ in your email program. Once you review and process an email, file it away, out of the inbox.
You can create folders for ‘Action Items’ that await completion too. These can be set up in addition to your main folders. If something requires no action, file it away to its proper folder and if it’s not important enough to read or act on and no one is expecting a reply, get comfy with ‘deleting it’. You can always open the trash bin to fish something out should you be called to act on it later for some reason.
Remember the 4 D’s;
For more tips and information on email management and email etiquette start by checking out this great resource: “Top 26 Most Important Rules of Email Etiquette” http://email.about.com/od/emailnetiquette/tp/core_netiquette.htm
And if you get stuck and just can’t bring yourself to the task of cleaning out thousands of old messages and setting up a system for yourself that works, call a professional organizer to help. Many people find the process overwhelming and our passion is to help you get through it while teaching you some tips and tricks to make it easier to maintain in future.
Need help organizing? Michelle serves the Carleton Place, Lanark County and Ottawa areas.