Gain Control Over Email

In our prior Blog (“Lost in Document Disorganization?“), we wrote about how maintaining an organized document filing system has become essential for businesses in the modern age of information overload. Now, we turn our attention to that other digital behemoth: email!

In this Blog, we will explore how to apply the concepts of digital organization to Gain Control Over Email. While not as daunting as establishing a structured filing system, the benefits will outweigh the initial effort and continued (as needed) refinement. Trek with us as we take a quick look at the benefits of organized email and provide tips from our team’s real-world experience and education.

 

Disclaimer: While email systems may differ in functionality, most (if not all standardly in use) have the same or similar features. Success Trek utilizes Microsoft Outlook; therefore, the information provided herein will reflect Microsoft’s Outlook terms. Also, please excuse the details – our tech/organization team member sometimes gets too excited to ensure the information provided is complete.

 

The Benefits

  • Reduced Anxiety. Reduce (or eliminate) the anxiety associated with those unread message notifications.
  • Reduced Stress. Reduce (or eliminate) the stress related to an Inbox that still holds an excessive number of emails that still need to be handled.
  • Easier Searching. While there may be a search feature, it is always easier to find what you are looking for if you know where to look (avoid the struggle to find a needle in a haystack). Bonus benefit: when you cannot recall the best search parameter (i.e., who it was to/from, the subject, the date sent/received, etc.), you can easily navigate to a folder to find it quicker.
  • Reduced Digital Size. Keeping your email under control and limited in size will ensure you do not exceed any system limits and ensure the application runs smoothly.

Our Tips

  1. Folders. Establish folders to help you stay organized and create subfolders within each as necessary (but avoid situations where you may end up with only one or two items in each folder). Some ideas:
    1. A folder named “Clients” and subfolders within it for each specific client.
    2. A folder named “Sales.”
    3. A folder named “Internal” and subfolders within it for each internal operations item such as “Finance” or “Marketing,” etc.
    4. A folder named “Reading.”
  2. Inbox. Use your Inbox as your “to-do” list.
    1. Immediately delete or move items that do not require further handling to another folder.
    2. Spam still happens, so if anything in your Inbox should be Junk, mark it as such to avoid further emails from going to your Inbox.
    3. Flag items that don’t need immediate attention but are due by a specific date – you can get to them later, but the flag will help remind you to do the item. Remember to clear the flag when it is no longer needed (you did what you needed to do with the email).
    4. Move items you want to read later to a separate folder (see item 1d).
    5. After handling an email (replying or forwarding), delete it from your Inbox. Provided your email settings reflect as such, the original should become a part of your reply or forward and is now in the Sent Items folder.
    6. NOTE: you may be able to use Rules to move emails from specific individuals into their own subfolder for handling later; however, if you’ve not flagged them (item 2c), you must review the folder (item 7) for further handling as necessary.
  3. Junk Email. Check your Junk Email folder regularly for misdirected emails.
    1. Move misdirected emails to your Inbox for appropriate handling.
    2. Delete everything from Junk Email regularly (after you’ve confirmed there are no misdirected emails).
  4. Sent Items. Review your Sent Items folder regularly. We recommend moving items into a properly named subfolder (see item 1).
  5. Deleted Items. Be sure to clear the contents of your Deleted Items folder regularly.
  6. Drafts. Check if you have drafts of emails that do not belong here. Often, these may have been emails you started and saved as drafts (intentionally or not), but you didn’t go back to finish the draft and instead started a new email. Delete any that are not needed.
  7. Other subfolders. Review and handle any items flagged in any other subfolder you established in item 1 (i.e., “Reading”).

Pro Tips

  • Not all job roles require responding to or watching for incoming emails immediately. If you can, turn off “new mail” notifications and limit checking your inbox to specific times during the day.
  • Routinely set aside 5 minutes each week to scan through items flagged, set aside, or otherwise still lingering. Whether at the beginning, end, or middle of the week, this focused time will help you assess the current state of things and help you prioritize tasks.

Conclusion

Getting started is always the most challenging part – but once you establish a system and routine (with the occasional tweaking), you will enjoy the benefits of gaining control over your email. Create a plan that fits your style and needs to empower you to manage your email effectively (and become the envy of others). If you need additional ideas to establish or enhance your email organization, Success Trek can help!

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