Take a look in your email inbox- how many messages do you have in there? A few hundred? A few thousand? Believe it or not, there are actually people who have accumulated email1and1 thousands of emails in their inbox. If this is you, it’s probably a good time to take a look at how you are processing the incoming emails, and see if you can improve the time spent on reading and responding to email actions.
Here are four steps you can start taking TODAY, that will make a huge difference in the amount of time you spend on email related tasks. Effective email time management starts right now!
Schedule Email Time
How many times a day are you interrupted by the “ding” that notifies you when an email has arrived in your inbox? Also think about the number of total interruptions you get each day- from the telephone, people stopping at your desk or office, instant messaging, etc. Scheduling an hour per day to work through the information received in your inbox (moving files to your reference folders, or carrying out the actions required of action emails) can make a huge difference in the amount you accomplish. Depending on the nature of your work, you may need to check your email more frequently for more pressing emails requiring actions right away, but having at least one hour per day, specifically scheduled to deal with what’s in the email inbox and to not allow phone calls or other interruptions, will make a huge difference.
If possible, don’t leave your email program running throughout the day while you’re working on something else. Every time you check to see what email is coming in, you lose focus on what you’re working on and it takes time to get it back. If you must check it frequently for urgent messages, just open it when you are in between projects, or waiting for something to boot up, etc.
All email can be classified as either “reference” or “action” email. Statistics show us that learning how to do this can save you up to 50 minutes per day on filing and finding information. That’s almost 7 hours a week, and well worth the time it will take you to learn this technique!
Reference Email: This is material that you receive in your email that you do not have to do a specific task with; but you want to keep it so you can refer to it at a later date. You need to store these in email folders, in the My Documents area of your computer, or in paper form within file cabinets.
Action Email: This is data that you use to actually complete an action. You need what is in the email to carry out the action. This information is typically saved on a to-do list, a calendar, or in a project management system.
One at a Time
It can be extremely difficult to resist the temptation to open emails in a random order- based on what looks most interesting to you as you open your inbox up! Systematically working through the emails one at a time, starting from the top, is a much better approach and will increase productivity and decrease time spent on email related tasks. Use your email program to arrange emails by date, so that the oldest or most recent emails are at the top of the list.
If you’ve got a backlog of emails in your inbox to work through, you will want to schedule blocks of time to get through them- organizing reference information and responding to actions. Eventually, you will be able to clear out your inbox of the older information and simply work on a daily list of emails, one at a time.
The “4 D’s of Decision Making”
Are you constantly opening and reading the same email messages over and over- and marking them “as new” again to refer back to later because you just aren’t sure what to do with it at this time? The reference/action classification will help you with that; as will the 4 D’s of Decision Making model.
Handling email once is more efficient, and will increase your productivity. Making a decision the first time you open your email is paramount to effective time management. You have four choices to select from using this model of decision making, including: