The first thing I do every morning after powering my computer is to click on the outlook icon to check my emails.
I look at the unread emails and quickly scroll down taking note of any emails from my boss, my boss’s boss and any other important email. I preview them in that order as I gauge if the email is ‘threatening’, “friendly” or just an FYI, at this point I take no action just a mental note. I then begin to act on the most urgent emails. Those that I cannot act on, I mark their status back to ‘unread’. This way I remember that I still haven’t acted on them and every time I go back to my inbox they will be staring at me until I act on them. Sometimes I also red flag emails that I need to get back to .However, I can’t remember the number of times I have “snoozed” on reminders or the number of unread emails I accumulate because I have not yet acted on them.
So far my methods have fairly worked and somehow I manage to get things done but I have been seeking better ways to manage my emails. After talking to some gurus who seem to clear everything in their inbox and respond to every email by end of day. Here is a summary of my findings.
Set a timeline by which you must respond to every email. The standard should be within 24 hrs. View an email as you would a face to face conversation, it would be rude if someone talked to you and you remained silent.When you don’t have the answers a simple,…. ‘I have seen your email and will revert to to you with details’…. will do. However, when no action is required from you a response may not be necessary.
Task emails. This are emails that require you to do a certain task. They would probably have a deadline. These are the tricky ones.
First, acknowledge receipt and commit to a time when you will have responded or completed the task. Secondly, set a side time when you will actually work on the task and create a reminder to keep you on track. Finally, get down and work on the task. I think this is the hardest part, to simply work. Remember to go back to your emails and send in the required response once the task is complete.
Don’t procrastinate. Most emails just require you to provide information that you have on your fingertips or tasks that need a few minutes to complete. Make a habit of acting on these emails immediately. Don’t procrastinate.
Schedule a time when you look at emails. Avoid constantly looking at your emails,this can actually be counter productive.This will allow you time to work on your tasks and get responses to your emails. Preferably look at emails first thing in the morning, middle of the day and about 1 hour before leaving the office. Don’t allow email notifications to distract you.
Marry your day priorities with incoming emails. Ideally you already have specific tasks planned for the day before you even look at your emails. Based on your emails and other tasks, you then have to prioritize your focus for the day.
Make use of the flags. Outlook comes with a series of flags that help organize pending tasks and emails. I seldom use them. However,they can be quite effective, especially where you have emails and tasks that require follow up and have strict deadlines. You will be surprised how effective these flags can be if you adhere to them.
Create a rule for ‘junk’ emails. I”m using the term junk to refer to emails that are neither urgent or important e.g. notifications.
Use the same header Always respond to the email using the same header. Creating a new message makes it difficult for both you and the sender to track the conversations and tasks associated with that email.
Managing emails is now an essential life skills that I hope to master. I think this will be a good place to start.