The worst way to manage your email is the best way to work with people. Each person deserves to be treated with respect and not be pre-judged. On the other hand the worst way you can treat your email is to give each one equal value. Many people manage their email on a first come first serve basis. That means that a monthly newsletter gets the same attention as an emergency message from your boss. That’s nuts! So what can you do?
First, delete all the messages you can. If your application supports it delete them all at once. In Outlook, I select the first message, then hold down the CTRL key and click all the other ones I want to delete. Next, I press CTRL+Q (to mark them as read) and CTRL+D (to delete them). The ones that I end up deleting are usually not *S*P*A*M but “bacn” (see All We Are Saying for definition).
Then, move lower priority message out of your Inbox without opening them. In Outlook, click on the message, and press CTRL+Q (to mark it read). Then move them to a folder, your calendar or your tasks list. (see The Secret Of The Three Buckets).
Next, forward all the ones you can. In addition, you may want to BCC yourself so you can set a reminder either in your “Waiting For” folder or in a Task.
What you are left with are the messages you need to do something about. For these, do the ones you can in 2 minutes or less and schedule the others based on priority.
The idea is to be prejudiced. You want to give the higher priority messages the attention they deserve. You want to move the lower priority messages out of your Inbox to be dealt with at a time when your energy is lower. I check my high priority messages about once an hour. It could be a week or more before I look at some lower priority messages.
Another tip. Let’s say that you look at your Inbox and there are 4 messages that you know you need to look at before the end of the day but can’t look at right now. A great way to handle this is to create an appointment with the message for say 4:00 PM. In Outlook, CTRL+CLICK the four messages, then Right-Click and Drag the messages to the Calendar icon. Then select “Move Here As Appointment with Attachment”. In a few clicks, you move the messages out of your folder and set a time to follow up.
How about you? How do you handle this dilemma?