One of the first areas of my life I wanted to clean up when I started implementing some new productivity principles was my email. Today you read a lot from people who say email is already on the way out because of services like Twitter but that’s really not the case. In fact, my email load has done nothing but increase in the last few years as more and more traditional communication methods are converted to email. Every one of my household bills is now delivered to me via email in a paperless attachment. Many businesses encourage this by charging a slight fee for paper statements but really, I like the convenience of managing email bills.
So what to do with all those emails? If your inbox is like mine was a few years ago, you have some important emails tucked in the middle of junk mail you need to delete or you simply “flag” messages so they catch your eye. You do this while trying to manage the deluge several times a day. More and more stores are sending coupons via email and while you may not use them, you hang on to them just in case. If you have a facebook account or are a part of networks like “freecycle”, you are being inundated by notifications of message threads, items that others are giving away, and private messages. ENOUGH! Like the guy at left, you just want to launch the whole load and start over sometimes. Well today and Friday, I’ll give you some basic ideas on what I did to handle the load and you can too. Perhaps some of this you have heard from others and some of this may be new. Take what you can use and start getting control over your inbox and feel the satisfaction of having your inbox at “zero” messages. It’s a great feeling.
For starters, let’s try to manage where the emails are going so you can review them better. The first thing I did when I started reworking my email was to set up not one but three accounts. I know what you’re thinking. THREE? Isn’t this supposed to be easier? Yes! Keep reading. I manage three email accounts because it’s much easier for me to send certain emails to certain accounts. For starters, set up a “sign up” account that you’ll check once a day. I call this a “sign up” account because it’s the email address I use when I sign up for anything. Coupons, Freecycle, Craig’s List, and other similar types of services all are funneled to this specific account. I don’t need to check this inbox regularly and the sheer volume of mail that goes there would be a huge time waster for me to wade through when I’m looking for more job specific communication. I check this inbox once a day, usually in the evening when I’m winding up the day. One other benefit to this type of account is that I can check the “delete all” button and clear it out quickly after I’ve looked to see if there’s anything I want from these emails.
The second email account is my “general business” account. It’s the email I use when sharing email addresses with business related clients but not necessarily those who need immediate responses. For example, I’m a pastor so many publishing houses will send me notices on things such as children’s program curriculum, bible studies, general meetings in our community for ministers, and similar types of communication. See where this is mail that is a bit closer to home but not urgent? This account I will check once in the morning and once in the evening. Sometimes, a meeting may be scheduled quickly so it’s more important for me to check this account first thing in the morning to see if there’s anything I need to take note of.
The final email account is my “personal” account. This is the inbox I check roughly three times a day. Once in the morning, once at mid-day, and once at night. Sometimes, I check it a bit more if I’m expecting something important but this my usual schedule. This inbox is used by church families if there is something important they need to share with me, my family, and also for all of my household bills that are now sent to me electronically. This account is the most important of the three which is why I check it more frequently. I also manage some tasks within this account and I will share more about this on Friday.
This is my basic setup. On Friday, I will tell you more about how I manage specific emails in my main account and how you can be more productive by using a similar system. At first glance, this may seem like a lot of work but it’s really not. Once you set up the account and begin channeling your emails to the various inboxes, you’ll notice a more streamlined approach to handling email. For some, only two account may be necessary. You may only need a “sign up” and “personal” account. Whatever helps to alleviate your stress is best. The key is to get started and take control of your inbox now!