Do you ever feel like you are drowning in email? New messages keep coming and before too long, older messages get buried and forgotten. If your in-box is overflowing and you have a continuous backlog if may feel as though you will never be able to catch up.
This situation not only causes a lot of stress and frustration, it’s also a time-waster. Countless hours can be spent reviewing the same messages multiple times. Email also tends to be an area of distraction, with many of us reacting to the alarm that sounds when a new message has arrived (I recommend turning these off).
Say Goodbye To Email Backlog!
If you take action the first time you read an email, you will solve your backlog problem.
The 3 factors below are the primary contributors to backlog – all stemming from the inability to make a decision and take action the first time you read a message.
- Only deal with urgent messages and save the rest for later. This is where backlog happens.
- Check messages in between appointments or whenever you have a minute or two when you don’t have time to act on them. You’ll end up re-reading the same emails multiple times.
- Leave messages in your in-box uncategorized. This happens when you’re not sure what to do with a message, usually ones you may want to save for later or don’t have a place for.
How to End Email Backlog
1. Set aside several blocks of time every day to read and reply to messages.
Use the guidelines below (15 – 30 minutes for each block of time works well for most people).
- Delete messages that you don’t need right away
- Take action first on items that need immediate attention and/or will only take a few minutes to complete
- Create subject folders and move messages to the appropriate folder (you may want to create folders called “to-do now”, “to-do later”, “read”, “upcoming events” and “reference material”, as these are the most common types of emails that tend to sit in your in-box).
- Put your to-do folder at the top of your folder list so you don’t forget to check it regularly.
2. Use different email accounts to keep your business and personal mail separate.
If you want to control the volume of email you receive to your business account, use your personal account for things that tend to be informational, such as message group updates or newsletters. This allows you to view them at your leisure and helps keep you focused during your work day.
3. Use the filter feature settings on your email program.
This will automatically send emails with a specific subject line directly to that folder, instead of to your in-box.
4. Clean up older messages a little at a time.
Do this by blocking out specific times on your calendar (you can use this time to unsubscribe to newsletters, etc. that you no longer want).
5. Start by applying this system to your most current messages.
Don’t try and tackle messages that are older than a few weeks at first. This will help you to avoid overwhelm (see item #4 for cleaning up older messages).
The sensation of drowning in email isn’t conducive to your happiness or your success! For help implementing these actions, please schedule a 30 minute complimentary consultation with me.