Most people have an email problem, even if they don’t realize it. If your inbox is cluttered up with too many emails, you have problems locating mail, then you have an email problem. This is how my email box on my work mail, private email and second domain looks like:
I also have a gmail account used for store information etc. It looks like this:
Empty! As in nothing to deal with, nothing to clutter up my mind, and easy to manage. Mail takes up very little of my time and energy. So how to go from email hell to email heaven?
Create an archive folder on your email account as you can see in the image on the left. Move all the mail in your inbox to the archive folder. All of it, even the mail you have received today and you have to deal with them. And we will deal with them in just a moment.
The purpose of emptying the inbox, and keeping it empty is for making it easy to deal with incoming mail, and it will also make it easier to focus on what is coming and keep on top of things.
Create an Action folder
Just do it.
Dealing with incoming mail efficiently
Now that we have the two most important folders in place, it’s time to think about how to deal with email. The rules are as follows:
Scan the emails
There are different types of emails. Some are short, some are agonizingly long. I remember one project manager who was so cluttered up with mail, that if he received mails that were long he wanted the important stuff he needed to take note off to be in bold letters. Just so he could easily scan what he needed to know, and move on which is one way of take note of things.
Instead one can categorize emails in the following manner:
- Read the email.
- If it’s something you have to take action on, write it down on a post-it note and place it in the archive folder.
- If it’s something you can’t take action upon now or put on a post-it note, place it in the action folder.
- If it’s a long email you don’t have the time/energy to deal with immediately, put it in the action folder.
- If it’s a mail that is of no value to you, use the delete button or put it in the archive folder.
The action folder is to be revised at least once a day or it can easily be the folder that clutters up the system. The mail in the action folder has to be put into the archive (or sub-) folders when an activity has been dealt with.
Don’t be afraid to use the delete button or archive emails. I used to create within the archive folder sub folders with the label “2010”, “2009” etc. Completely useless because one can easily order the emails by date anyway, so I stopped doing it. As you can see I have sub folders within the Archive folder. It can be sub folders related to projects, system messages etc. but as a general rule I try to have as little sub folders as possible.
I receive automatic mail like system messages, newsletters etc. which is something I have to deal with whenever I have the time. They aren’t critical and I have to just look at them for two seconds to make sure everything is good. Those emails I have created rules for. The email client can take a look at incoming messages and if they match the rule I have made the email is automatically moved to the subfolders I have created. The rule can be that all emails coming from a sender or contains a specific subject is moved to a specified folder.
Go through the archive folder
In the first step we put all the emails in the archive folder, just so we easily could get away emails and focus on what’s coming in – and to create a peaceful mind and world peace.
Now it’s time to go through those emails and follow the steps above. You don’t have to go through all the mails in the archive folder, you probably know when you have dealt with the necessary emails.
It doesn’t take a long time to do these steps and get control of your emails. I don’t know about you, but when I did this I felt relieved afterwards. Whenever I see that my inbox get a bit cluttered up because I haven’t followed the steps, I know I’m falling behind. Having control of my emails are one less thing to deal with. One less thing that clutters up my brain.
Even such a small thing as this gives me so much satisfaction every day. Just the knowledge that I’m in control of my email (which means what is happening around me) gives me so so much satisfaction. I love it.