4 Steps Toward Reclaiming Your Inbox

December 5, 2012
Posted by Link Staffing Services

Take control of your email inboxEvery now and then we all need a little intervention. For many of us, this particular intervention is long overdue but if you’re reading this then chances are you’re finally ready to take back your Inbox for good. Yes, it really, truly is possible but it’s not easy. You have to be ready and willing to make some changes. Here’s how it’s done, as seen in a recent article we read by Michael Hyatt on this very subject.

1. Clean out your inbox every day
Yes, that’s right – every single day – work until the little number in parentheses indicating the number of new messages is ZERO. This doesn’t mean that you have to respond to every message only that you need to review them all and decide what to do. We’ll explain exactly what to do next.

2. Do something with everything
Every message requires something of you. If you just leave it there, your inbox will get clogged up and you’re back to where you started before this intervention. Emails always fall into 1 of 2 categories and each category will leave you with a couple of options.

a. Actionable emails
When you’re asked to do something specific that requires immediate action (as long as you can do it in 2 minutes or less), here are your options:

Do something – Don’t wait, just do it right away. To borrow the 2-minute rule from our source article, if it can be done in 2 minutes or less, just do it right away. If not, proceed to the following actions.

Delegate it – If someone else can do a better job with the task requested of you, then seek out their help. Don’t just pass off duties because you don’t have the time or interest to do them. If it’s not really in your field of expertise, send it along to someone else.

Defer it – Put it on your formal “to-do” list. This doesn’t give you license to procrastinate your tasks, only that the action required will take more time than you can allow at the moment. So, you’re free to do it later.

b. Non-Actionable Emails
If the email doesn’t require any action from you or if you’ve already completed the action required, there are only 2 options.

Delete it – Believe it or not, you don’t need to save every email you’ve ever received since the beginning of email history. You’re not doing yourself any favors, just delete it. If you think you’ll actually need it later, then skip to the next step.

File it – The trick here is to keep it simple. Do not create an elaborate file scheme – just create one folder for processed mail. Call it whatever you like (perhaps “processed mail” would be a good name) and put everything you’ll need to keep for later in that folder. When you need to track down an email in the future, you can just use your search feature and it won’t matter what sub-folders you have them in anyway.

 3. Use keyboard shortcuts
Think about it, you’re mouse only has 3, maybe 4 options and your key board has… well, a bunch of options and they’re all accessible very, very quickly. It’ll take you a little time to get used to it but I can tell you from 6 years of personal experience using keyboard shortcuts for almost everything, it’s absolutely worth it. For Outlook users, just press F1 for help and search “keyboard shortcuts”.  For Mac users, check out KeyCue, an inexpensive program that will guide you on the keyboard shortcuts for every program on your machine.
Once you get used to it, processing your email with shortcuts will reduce the time you spend staring at an overwhelming sea of messages and increase your productivity a great deal. You may be surprised to find that better email responsiveness will give you more credibility amongst your peers and clients and may even help boost your career.

4. Keep moving, don’t stop
Once you start processing your inbox, don’t stop. The process will go much quicker if you just hunker down and get it done. Staying on top of it every day (see step 1) will make this a much less daunting task.

It’s a little bit of work but if you’re willing to make some changes in your processing methods and learn to be more efficient through the steps in this article, you can take control of your Inbox again. Feel free to contact us or comment with your thoughts below if you have any words of wisdom or success stories.


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