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How to regain control of your In-box.

I was recently asked for a few top tips on how to manage email overload. Here is my reply. What would you add?
The simple answer is to view email differently, to see it for what it is – the communication element of an overall workload management process. Too many people try to use email as a workload management tool in its own right. The more sophisticated answer is to….

develop a workload management process, where email is central but not dominant in the scheme of things.

In Life generally and with email management in particular a comprehensive approach always works better than a few isolated tips or tricks especially gadget based tricks!

My top 3 ‘Get out of Jail’ tips to get people past ‘Go’ and on the road to mastery of their inbox and control of their workload:

1 Do not use the inbox as another To-Do list. In fact only have one To-Do list for each day.
2 Only deliberately go into the inbox to make decisions that will allow you to process each email  with one touch based upon the well known Urgency/Importance matrix, and clear the inbox every time you access it.
3 Decide at the start of the day how often you will go into the inbox today based upon your situational assessment of what is going on. Month-end and Quarter-end may mean going in often. Mid month or when things are running relatively smoothly may mean going in less often. I make this decision when deciding what to wear to work that day.

Of course, you can always contact us to tailor a support programme to your needs or book into my 20th Feb 2015 free web Executive Briefing on managing workload, competing priorities and a bulging inbox better with Microsoft Outlook. Reserve your seat here:
Eventbrite - Working Smarter with Outlook: Feb Briefing and Taster

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Richard Maybury August 29, 2009, 11:15 am

    Good question, Matt, This 4D process is based upon visiting the inbox deliberately to execute the decisions on the new mail and getting out of the inbox as quickly as possible (so as not to tempt us into lingering longer). The best order to approach the 4Ds is Delete, Delegate (with a control process if necessary), Date activate and then Do.

    These decisions are made in the knowledge of what is on our Daily Dashboard of meetings and tasks (in Outlook / Lotus Notes or whatever one uses). The Do stuff is done knowing how doing it will impact what is already on the list for the day. If reacting right now to a mail that has just come in clearly the right decision, then one must look at and adjust the order of priorities on the Dashboard. I recommend doing this before we start dealing with the mail because that reinforces the impact assessment.

    Does this make sense to you?

  • Matthew Cornell August 28, 2009, 6:54 pm

    Nice summary, Richard. I like you application of the matrix to the Ds. Q: What if a Do Now takes three hours and precludes emptying the rest of the inbox?

  • Richard November 26, 2008, 10:04 am

    Looks like a cool solution for managing generic email traffic.

  • Jason Gallic November 25, 2008, 6:52 pm

    Those are all wonderful recommendations for dealing with email overload and its subsequent fallout. And the suggestions are necessary, considering the number of people and organizations that are falling prey to the drain of email.

    There is a solution that addresses the management of unending buckets of customer and business email that often plagues organizations.

    Email Center Pro was built to address these issues by collecting email from shared addresses like info@ and sales@ into a centralized location. This eliminates the need for any single person to own all of that email, and prevents incessant email checking and perpetual delegation. The service will make you more efficient and accurate — and it will help you improve your overall work flow so that you’re no longer weighted down by your inbox.

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