23 THOUSAND emails in your Inbox?

We are becoming more and more reliant on our digital systems. Unfortunately most of these systems are dumb by design. Take the topic of this blog. Email management. How well do you do it?

For many years email management provided by client software has been limited at best.  And whilst it has improved over time the automation will generally just mean a chunk of mail moves into a separate file (note: file, not folder).

I’m not writing this blog to poke fun at those people that only use their inbox and within have all of their many thousands of emails stacked up. Nor am I internationally being critical of people who have nearly as many sub folders as they do emails.

Each to their own!

My best suggestion passed out over the years is to have a “system” – that would be a personal system.  And what’s more make it one of your own design.

Why a system?  The simple answer is for expediency, speed, efficiency, great organisation, skill.

And why do you have to “design” it?  Buy-in. If you create it you’re going to use it aren’t you?

If someone else comes along and tells you you need to create a folder per client and one for bills in, bills out, and so on……chances are you might only give it a half-hearted try.

So in and of itself having lots of emails in your inbox isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, from a technical point of view, it makes things a bit more complicated.

Physically scrolling takes time.  Yes, you can search, but only if you know who/what you’re searching for.  (Don’t laugh, do you remember the names of ALL of the people you spoke to, over email, in the last few years!?). Some systems limit content by size, time, date, other parameters.

Having a system also can provide confidence, which in turn can relax you, and that can help you in being more organized and generally just a much cooler personal generally!

Of course you want to know if I have a system don’t you?  (What do you mean no?!)

For my own personal email management I’ve adapted a form of “Inbox Zero” which is aimed at keeping your inbox empty or as near to it at all times.

The process in a nutshell;

Use folders/sub folders – organize mail into folders
Remove distraction – close the mail client for periods of the day
Clear down regularly – I try to clear down the inbox at least once a day
Priority processing – process mail via priority usually following a clear down

How it works;

Using priority sub folders; “aFile” “bFile” etc
Clearing down the Inbox means move all mail into priority folders – quick scan and move
Respond to mail in highest priority folder first, move to next priority folder when previous is empty
Use nested folders to easily move chunks of mail; All client mail placed into Client folder, then that folder is sorted in the relevant sub folders
Use a bit of automation to move stuff you might only read if you have time

It’s not a perfect method by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some definite benefits in doing this.  I feel so much better about the whole concept of communication as a result and generally I can find the stuff I need most of the time.

Another point about this is that you must not set it in stone.  If something isn’t working quite right then adjust. When I first started I had far too many top-level folders so I reduced the number and it worked better.

Call it adapting technology to better support you – since that’s what it is, and what ALL technology should do – spend a little time, get it working the way you want it.

Go on your own email management journey, I dare you!

Oh and to answer my own question – I currently have THREE!