I often hear people complain to me that their mailbox is at bursting point, often hearing comments along the lines of ‘I’m dreading taking the time to sort it out’.
It always amazes me how many allow their email to get in such a state of confusion and disorganization. This often leads to information being forgot, important actions delayed, and ultimately a cost to your time and business.
But don’t fear, greater efficiency and organisation is here.
Managing your email as it hits your mailbox, organising your folders and managing your sent messages are the keys to improving your organisation, and will put you on the road to greater efficiency.
To get started you need to organise your folders properly.
Obviously you will have the usual… inbox, trash, sent, etc.
For greater organisation, the first thing you need to do is create your specific folders. In these folders you will file away emails once they have been actioned, and require no further action. You’re keeping them as they are handy to have for future reference.
I create folders for each business department… Finance, IT, Marketing, Product, Sales, etc.
Everyone’s job and responsibility is different, so you will need to consider how you would like to file your emails in a way that you can refer to them easily in future.
I then create an extremely important folder… The ‘Sent Actioned’ folder (I’ll get to this later).
Obviously all new mails come into your inbox.
As new mail comes in you need to make the decision to deal with it now, or deal with it later. A general rule of thumb I use is that if I can deal with it in less then two minutes, then I complete the action immediately so I can close off this email.
Once an email is completed and requires no more of my action, I will file it in one of the other folders. For example an email related to marketing, will be put in the marketing folder should I require it for future reference.
If you need to reply to an email, once you have done so you can also move it to the corresponding folder. Don’t worry if the email is still in a ‘live’ status and requires further action, we cover that later in the sent section.
The idea here is that in you inbox, you only have emails that are currently awaiting your action.
Throughout your day you will set yourself a certain amount of time to go through your inbox. Personally I go through mine as soon as I get into the office, after lunch around 13:00, and around 30 minutes before I leave the office at the end of the day. This ensures that I’m not constantly checking email as they come in… my email doesn’t drive me, I drive my email!
Ideally at the end of the day you will see your inbox empty! You have taken the time to go through your inbox and takeaction where required, and moved the mails to the correct folder. The only mails you will have in your inbox are emails that you have decided you don’t currently want to take any action on, for whatever reason.
During the first morning check of inbox, you will see the emails from previous days that you haven’t taken action on. I find this as a huge motivator and do my best to ensure there are no emails older than 3 days in my inbox. This means you don’t forget important emails, and are always aware of outstanding items.
The ‘Sent’ and ‘Sent Actioned’ Folder
Whilst I enjoy the fact that this system allows me to manage my incoming mail effectively and efficiently, I love the ‘Sent’ and ‘Sent Actioned’ process.
When you send an email, this email is stored in your sent folder. This is why we move the original email from your inbox to another folder, as there’s no point duplicating this email in your inbox and sent… Let’s just keep it in your sent for now.
Every morning after checking my inbox, I spend time going through my sent mails.
Here I’m looking for emails that don’t require any further action from me or anyone else. Each of these no action emails are then put in the ‘Sent Actioned’ folder. I don’t need them right now, but I’ll keep them for future reference.
This will leave emails in the sent folder where I am expecting an action, normally a reply.
And here is the beauty of the system…
If I’ve not received a response regarding a particular email in my sent box within a 24-hour period (unless I’ve stipulated longer timescales in the email), I will click to forward this email again to the same person as a reminder.
A simple message would say ‘Hi xxx, I sent you the mail below yesterday but haven’t heard anything back from you. When do you think you would be able to allocate some time to this and respond? Thanks’.
This is ultimate efficiency.
Not only is the sent box reminding you of your actions, it helps you to keep on top of others and remind them of their actions.
How many times have we sent out emails requesting information only for the other person to never get around to sending, and simply forget about it… No more!
As you send the reminder email another mail is created in your sent box, so you simply need to send to oldest email in this chain to your ‘sent actioned’ folder.
This kind of efficiency and focus will also rub off on others. As they receive reminders from you they will think… ‘wow Damian’s really on his game, I’ll get on this straight away’.
You also find that your colleagues will mention your email reminders to you, often in a jokey way. Be sure to share the joke, but also share your process. The more people that use this system, and the more efficient your business will be.
It would be great to hear your work efficiency tips, whether email related or not. So please leave a comment below.