5 paths to e-mail Nirvana – Heros make it simpel

25. januar 2009

Simple Living demands going back to basics and doing more with less.
E-mail is a part of my life that I would not want to live without, and therefor I try to make it as simple as possible.
I’m always amazed at how complex people manage to make their e-mail, and however clever systems the results are almost always some or all of the following:
  1. The same E-mails are read over and over again.
  2. Action items in e-mails are overlooked.
  3. Filing and retrieving e-mails takes way too long.
Leaving your e-mail in the inbox will cause you to read and re-read your e-mails, often trying to decide weather to do something about it or not. 
With no easy way to capture actions, these are often lost overlooked. Adding just another folder makes filing exponentially harder with every new folder and harder to retrieve, because you first have to decide where to file and then afterwards have to go through numerous folders to locate an e-mail.
There are 5 truths to better manage your e-mail. Adhering to these truths will cause you to spend less time on e-mail or get more done. It will clear away the stress most people feel about e-mail and finally, show your co-workers, clients and friends that you care and respect their correspondence with you.
  1. Receive less
  2. Delete
  3. Do
  4. File
  5. Defer
1. Receive less e-mail by sending less. It is a universal truth that, “One shall receive more than one e-mail per e-mail sent”, so by simply writing less e-mail, your inbox will shrink. You can do this by simply putting less people on cc and bc, or by calling someone instead of e-mailing, or waiting to communicate until you meet them.
Newsletters are a great way of having information pushed to you, but too many of them gets intrusive and fills up your inbox. Remember to cancel your subscriptions when they get tired or file them automatically (see #4).
2. Delete any e-mails that are clearly spam or of no interest to you, right away. You can often decide just by scanning the sender and the subject. I have set up my reading pane in Outlook to display a preview in the size of a newspaper column. This is a familiar format for the eye and allows me to quickly scan the importance of new e-mail. 
A different way of deleting/removing e-mail from your inbox, is to create a filter that automatically categorizes and files any recurring e-mails that you might want to read later.
3. Do the actions that are embedded in an e-mail right away, if these can be accomplished in less than two minutes. If someone writes, “Should we meet for lunch”, don’t skip to the next e-mail to come back and read the first one later. Answer it right away.
4. File all e-mails that you want to keep. Most e-mail programs have a built in automatic filing feature aka “Sent Items”. Sent Items let you automatically keep a copy of anything you sent, but wait there is more! The mails you send also contains the mail you received, so there is no reason to file that one, just delete it. 
A different way of filing e-mail to get it out of your inbox, is to create a filter that automatically categorizes and files any e-mails that you want to keep or might want to read later, like newsletters.
5. There can be 2 reasons for deferring an action, not the e-mail itself but the action embedded in it. 
The first reason is when an e-mail holds an action that takes more than two minutes. By definition you should defer it. 
The other reason is when an action is related to your hard landscape, your calendar. This could be an agenda sent to you, or a text to go over at a meeting. Or it could be a telephone call that you must make, but only on or after a certain date. 
And finally remember:
Never start your day by answering e-mail – It will consume you and your time before you get anything important done.
Refrain from constantly checking e-mail – They can wait until you finish that one important task that you started.
I will go over the setup of Outlook and Gmail in other posts, so check back.

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