Take a look at your email inbox. If you are like many others, you have several: work, personal, business personal, gmail, etc. Is there a common theme? Is a huge number sitting in parenthesis struggling to stay inside those brackets like your belt after Thanksgiving dinner?
Not to sound like an inbox snob, but mine does not. I used to think a low number in my inbox meant I was not busy or important enough but that number does not indicate quality or quantity of work (what numbers do anyway!?). If you want to get your e-mails and messages down to a manageable size, here are some things I do to keep messages flowing in and out with ease and giving each message breathing room within the box. For me, this helps me increase work flow, efficiency, and peace of mind.
- Delete After Responding: Many messages that can be auto-deleted are “final” emails. For example, someone saying thank you, confirming something, or at the close of an issue. The rule I use is if it is something I can respond to immediately, delete immediately. “But, Amanda, I am still working on that issue. Just because the email is responded to doesn’t mean my work is done!”
- E-mails as Follow-up Reminders: If that message above in italics was your thought, I get it. Right now I have (5) emails in my inbox as they are “pending” issues. One says simply, “Thank you!” It is perfectly acceptable to keep emails as reminders, but it shouldn’t be your only source because as you know, they pile up fast. In some e-mail platforms, each message sent has it’s own separate line. Delete any “extras” or previous messages and keep the most recent one. If there are various people on the thread, just keep one open. More than likely, all the past messages will be there within that one saved email.
- Assess your box daily: Each evening and morning I do an inbox review. I delete messages right away that I do not plan to read, clear out spam messages, and review every e-mail in my inbox. If you have hundreds going through them twice a day is impossible. But practicing the delete methods above will help.
- Create Folders: Not all messages can be deleted as they are “references” or things to remember. I have a folder for my work address simply called “References.” It is where I keep process changes, “cheat sheets”, etc. Create folders that make sense to you, but don’t let these become clutter closets. Shoving everything in a closet doesn’t mean you’ve cleaned up. These folders I tend to go through once every few months. I delete any information that is over a year old and/or outdated.
- Positive Folder: Keep one or two positive folders in your box. I have 2: Happy and Positives. The Happy folder are folders that made me laugh. The Positive folder are messages from customers or internal co-workers with notes going beyond the standard “thank you.” It is a folder filled with kudos. These are great for reviews or when you need a pick-me-up.