Avoiding Email Overload – Part Two

On Wednesday I explained my three account system for managing various types of email correspondence I receive. Today I want to focus on how I sort my mail for maximum productivity. My focus is on my “personal” account (read Wednesday’s post for background) and I will explain how the other two accounts fit into this system.

For starters, you need to set up a system of folders or tags, whichever you like, and label these in such a way that sorting your email will be a breeze (once you go through the initial setup of course). Email services like Google or Zoho have excellent labeling systems that allow you to label your email in any way you choose. Some people set up simple names like “school”, “important!”, and “business” and if that works for you than fine. For me, I needed a way to get through mail quickly and easily so that when I wanted to work on certain messages, I could pull up just what I need in an instant. Here’s the system I use:

I use color coded labels for my emails and archive them into these areas to clear my inbox. My label system consists of six basic types with the first four being most prominent: Action, Review, Defer, and Bills. Of these four, Bills is the most obvious. All of my household bills now come to me electronically. It’s much easier to manage than paper. When a bill comes in to my email, I immediately tag it as such and it’s gone. When I’m reviewing my bills to pay them online, it’s much easier for me to pull them up in one account, set up payments depending on due dates, and let my bank automate the payments. My stress is reduced and I’m more in control of this area. The other three labels are fairly easy to get also. Action refers to any email that I need to act on within the next day or so. These include activities that are best for me to be working on at the moment. Eventually, they become items on my ‘results’ list and are deleted. Review is for any item that has my interest but I’m not wanting to waste the time to look at it right now. I will tag it and archive it so that when I have a block of time to review items that are important, I can pull these up right away and make a decision on whether to act on them or delete them. Defer is simply those email action items I’ve sent to others for work. If an item can be better handled by someone else, I “defer” it and wait for a reply.

The other two labels I use are my Reference labels. I use one for my personal items and one for the church I pastor. Items that need to be stored for later retrieval maybe only once a year go in these folders as do password updates, bank notifications. etc. I even use these folders to hang onto communication I’ve received of a negative nature in case legal action was needed. You never know if you’ll need a document with a threat on it years later and with storage from sites like Google being pretty massive, it makes sense to hang on to those types of emails.

As for how the other two email accounts work in this system I use a simple rule. My “sign up” account has rarely if ever had an email I needed to keep. My “general Business” account has had a few here and there and for those emails, I simply forward them to my personal account and archive the information before deleting it from the other account. It doesn’t take long if you set up a routine like I mentioned in Wednesday’s post. For me, this system of managing your email has been effective and a big timer saver. As with all things, take what works and chuck the rest. The idea here is to get a handle on emails and not allow them to overtake your productive time each day. Good luck!

Avoiding Email Overload – Part Two

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