Many of us have the goal of getting to inbox zero. If you have thousands of e-mails, it would probably be very time consuming and tedious to go through every single e-mail. But, you can process your current e-mails using four simple steps.
1. Quickly answer messages that require a short reply. Some messages just need a quick response and then can be deleted. And, some (like spam) can just be purged immediately. Consider scheduling specific times of the day to reply e-mails and start by replying to those e-mails first. It will be quick, easy, and (relatively) painless…and leave you with enough time to continue processing your other messages.
2. Move action items to your task list. E-mail (like calling someone on the phone or sending a letter/card or text message) is form of communication, not a task or to do list. When a message requiring action on your part hits your inbox, prioritize it and then move it to your to do list. Add a reminder or due date to help keep those tasks from slipping out of sight.
3. Move meeting requests to your calendar. When you get a meeting requests via e-mail, check your calendar to see if you can attend, and once you’ve confirmed that you can, add it to your calendar (you may be able to click a link to do this automatically). Then, delete the request from your inbox. Or, you can use a meeting scheduler, like Doodle or Tungle, and have those requests bypass your inbox altogether.
4. Move reference or informational messages to a specific folder. Some e-mails don’t require an action or need you to participate in a meeting. They simply give you information that you will most likely refer to (e.g., for a current project you’re working on). Create a specific folder for those messages to free up your inbox.
If you keep in mind that e-mail is a way to communicate with others – not a task list or meeting scheduler or project management tool – you’ll find it a little easier to keep your inbox unclogged.
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