Get Ready to Tackle Your Inbox
If you’ve found yourself stressed out and lacking focus lately, your email inbox could be to blame. That happy little chime that alerts you to a new email might be causing you more anxiety than you think. A full inbox can be more stressful for some than a desk littered with paper memos. If this is the case, then it’s time to think about putting a new system to work to lessen your email load. Take control of your inbox with these tips on creating an organized email strategy.
Gain A Fresh Perspective
First, you have to face the fact that your current method of dealing with email could be causing you more harm than good. Opening an inbox to find over 100 emails begging for your attention is an immediate stressor. In fact, a recent study concluded that reducing the amount time you spend dealing with email can help lower stress levels by actually lowering your heart rate. Taking time initially to set up an organized email strategy will enable you to spend less time in your inbox later. Instead of letting emails pile up, take the time to consider each one. Is it something that needs to be taken care of right away? If so, complete the task or answer the email and delete or move the message. If it’s a task that has to be completed at a later date, consider transferring the information to a calendar and then deleting the email. This will help you prevent messages from piling up and taking over.
Start at the Beginning
Take a deep breath and take it one step at a time. Choose how you want to sort your messages before dealing with them. A good way to start is to sort them by date, but depending on your email program, you might also be able to arrange them according to subject, sender, recipient, size, or flags. Work in order from the top, deciding what to do with each email as you go. For each message, ask yourself whether it’s something that can be deleted or filed. If the answer is yes, do so immediately. If the email contains a task that can be assigned to someone else, delegate and delete it.
Divide and Conquer
Leaving messages to linger in your inbox until you have time to deal with them only serves to add to the clutter. Instead of letting emails pile up, take the time to consider each one. Is it something that needs to be taken care of right away? If so, complete the task or answer the email and delete or move the message. If it’s a task that has to be completed at a later date, consider transferring the information to a calendar and then deleting the email. This will prevent messages from piling up and taking over.
For emails that are not critical but cannot be deleted immediately, create separate folders where you can deposit them until they are needed. When you do need them, they’ll be easy to find. A good rule of thumb is to have folders labeled To Do, To Read, In Progress, and Personal. In addition, create folders where emails about specific projects are clients can be filed. Not only will this help you shrink the size of your inbox, but it will also keep you from accidentally deleting something you might need in the future.
Deliver Communications Personally
A good way to cut down on the number of emails you receive is to try to communicate with coworkers in person. If you need to send an interoffice message, try delivering it personally. Physical movement and face-to-face interaction can help lower anxiety and stress levels. If this isn’t possible, use the phone or consider setting up an interoffice chat system. This will enable you and your coworkers to ask quick questions of one another without sending emails or memos.
Enlist Outside Help
If creating an organized email strategy seems overwhelming at first, consider installing a program that will help you prioritize your email. These will automatically categorize incoming emails, depositing low-priority messages like newsletters into a separate folder for future reading. Only the most important emails are allowed to reach your inbox. There are pros and cons to this, as there is the off chance that you could miss something important from a source that the program doesn’t consider high priority. However, if you truly lack the time to tackle your inbox by yourself, a program like this can be very helpful.
Decide What Emails You Really Want to Receive
Junk mail is a major contributor to an unorganized inbox. Sometimes we subscribe to mail lists and alerts that we decide we don’t need later on down the road. Instead of being forced to delete each of these messages as they come in, take the time to scroll to the bottom of the email and click on the unsubscribe link. Stopping unwanted emails from showing up in the first place will make a huge difference in the amount of time it takes you to get organized.
Now that you’ve implemented your organized email strategy and have de-cluttered your inbox, make sure it stays that way! Don’t let yourself fall back into the habits that allowed the mess to accumulate in the first place. Be consistent in following the steps you’ve set up for yourself. Set alerts for priority emails so you don’t waste time checking your email multiple times a day to find that nothing exists that requires immediate attention. You can also set alerts to remind you to check your inbox at specific times in order to organize the contents. Putting these strategies into effect will help ease anxiety and stress while also boosting time management.
Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Ambro