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Mastering your emails

January 25, 2010

This morning just started like another Monday morning.

Are you usually also so excited to be Monday again, with a brand new week in front of you, looking forward to many interesting things to do?

Full of energy you turn on your computer, you put your cup of coffee on your desk and you open your mail management system.

And there it starts… You become overwhelmed by the number of messages in your inbox and the idea of the time it will consume to read or to answer to each of them.
Before you know, you lose a little bit of your enthusiasm, a frown replaces your smile. You take a sip of coffee and start to go through that huge stack of mails, cursing the inventor of emails.

This can be avoided though. And the overwhelming feeling and some of the emails.

Take a sharp look to this list of emails and start to organize your system so that it will work for you and not the other way round.

As yourself a few questions:

1. Which emails did you receive today in your Inbox and that should have gone straight to Junk?

Instead of deleting those messages right away, select them immediately and send them to your Junk box (spam). They will be marked as such and will never land under your eyes anymore. You’ll see that after a few days the number of spam messages arriving in your inbox will be drastically reduced.

2. Which emails are personal and which ones are professional messages?

It’s always nice to receive news from your family and friends. But let’s face it: on a busy Monday morning, the last thing you should do to stay productive is to read the jokes and complains of your relatives. If something very urgent would have happened to them, they would have used the phone or would have rung at your door to tell you, trust me. These mails can usually wait until the evening, if not stay there for a day or two. In this case, here is my suggestion: create a folder dedicated to friends and/or family mails and apply a filter in your mail management system that would send those messages to that folder. Set aside 15 minutes during the day or twice a week to enjoy reading your family’s prose.

3. Which emails did you get today that are subscriptions to newsletters irrelevant to your business or your hobbies?

Well… you know the answer there. Go to the bottom of the message and… unsubscribe! You do a favor to yourself by uncluttering your inbox and to the sender as they won’t have irrelevant prospects on their lists. Of course, keep the subscription to the newsletters you enjoy or find useful. Once again, create relevant folders and filters. Keep those messages for later on. You can even read them in a coffee shop, when you decide to relax for a while. Most coffee shops nowadays offer free Wifi.

4. Which mails do need immediate attention?

You know the rules of your priorities better than I do. But, as a general rule, customers’ correspondence, prospect’s correspondence, bank mails, suppliers’ messages (when not advertising) require immediate attention. Once again, the secret here is FILTER and send each message in an appropriate FILE. Set time aside during the day or the week to answer to those mails or take action on them appropriately. Some (if not all) the mail management systems allow you to flag your messages and to add an action date on them. Take advantage of that feature.

Apply these 4 rules and you’ll be surprised, next Monday, to see that it will already be easier to deal with your Inbox stuff.

Three last things:

– Set aside blocks of time during the day just to go through your mail and answer to the top priority messages right away.

– Resist the urge to read your mail when it’s not “the right time”.

– Don’t quit your desk in the evening without having cleaned up your messages. You’ll start the following day more organized and serene.

But… that has to do with discipline, no? We’ll talk about that some other time…



3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2010 5:29 AM

    These are great way to keep in control. I have found turning off the audio alert for new mail helps my concentration…

    • February 3, 2010 9:02 AM

      Good point, Rob. I’ll add it to the list. It can also be a useful advice for time management. Thanks for taking the time to converse. 🙂


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