handling emailYou enjoy dealing with email about as much as you enjoy death and taxes. But like death and taxes, email’s a certainty.  The methods to receive email keep growing; desktops, laptops, smart phones, tablets,  iPad.  Additionally, most people have multiple emails addresses.  So you can fight a losing battle or settle in and figure out a way to make peace with it and use it on your terms.

Hundreds of books have written and classes developed to help get email under control.  Making small changes over time are the kind of changes that stick, so here’s a suggestion for managing your inbox.

Take a look at your email inbox and set an upper limit. That limit indicates many emails you are comfortable seeing in your inbox.  Some folks are determined to get it to zero.  Bully for them.  Others are comfortable with several dozen or even several hundred. Your limit needs to work for you.

At the end of every day, make certain you haven’t inched up above that comfortable limit.  Here’s how to make that happen.

First rule is that your inbox is not the place to store (longer than the current business day) items that require you to take action. Action items either need to be handled that day, or moved to a task list to be handled at a later date. Now that you’ve identified action items, move on to the rest.

Most email doesn’t even require action.  These include:

  • Cc’s  (Often just C.Y.A. messages)
  • Jokes and humorous videos or links
  • “Chain” emails.  (Please make them stop.)
  • Social networking updates
  • Informational/marketing/sales messages from service providers
  • Marketing/sales messages from retailers
  • Motivational/spiritual guidance messages

Those emails may serve a purpose for you, and if so, by all means keep getting them. But if they’ve outlived their usefulness to you, or if you never actually get around to reading them, unsubscribe or delete without reading.

It’s like cleaning out a junk drawer or getting rid of jeans that don’t fit. Do it and feel the relief.

Make use of folders by creating fairly broad categories. (Never create a folder created for just one email.  Getting into that habit will result in hundreds of folders…and a death wish.)  A folder title in boldface tells you that there are unread emails inside.  Repeating above — time sensitive stuff does not go here.

Something to think about. Your workdays and personal life were plenty busy before email. You’re expecting to spend dozens minutes to several hours each day on email and still be able to do all the things you had packed into your schedule prior to having email. The math doesn’t add up. Take small steps to start putting yourself back in control of how you spend your time.

The email inbox is as good a place to start as any.