Do you believe you could be even more efficient with email?
I’ve been using a strategy inspired by a book called Getting Things Done, by David Allen. I now check email only once a day, and emptying it every time, and it feels great!
I’m a busy person with many personal and business commitments, however I feel completely in control of my email about 95% of the time. This strategy has passed the test of time for me and many others over the year.
If you do this you will save time, avoid distractions, and feel more in control. Other people will also start to notice that when you check your mail you deal with every mail – every time.
If this is going to work for you, you need to test it starting RIGHT NOW. You will also need to use a good dollop of discipline for a few months, because new habits take some time to form. Like anything worthwhile, there is effort and discipline involved, but stick with it and it will change your life for the better.
System for keeping your email under control
Starting with the oldest email, go through the following questions. Train your self to either Do, Delegate, Delete or Delay every time…
If an email is going to take less than a few minutes to deal with, and you have everything you need to deal with it now, then do it straight away. Anything else isn’t worth the overhead. The goal is to handle every email just once. Once done archive it.
Wooah, slow-down! Don’t just hit the “Forward” button unless there are already clearly established rules between you and whoever you’re forwarding to.
Take the time to anticipate the other party’s needs. Use an “If ___ then ___” structure to make sure they can add some value before replying, otherwise you’re just tying your self to your inbox.
For example, I could ask my assistant “Can you find out how much it costs to do X please”. Think forward to their reply, and the decision you will have to make. Make that decision now, so that they have the information and authority to add more value.
This previous step not only makes them feel more useful, but means it’s longer before I feel I need to check my email for a response. Remember the goal is to check email just once or twice a day.
Instead, therefore, I could ask “If X cost less than $200 please go ahead with it without asking, otherwise please send me their information containing features and benefits”. Hope that makes sense?
The next class of email are those that are simply “nice to know” and can be deleted. Simple enough, however think a little further about the underlying system here.
Sounds obvious, but be aware of the time you spend deleting. Lookout for mails you could unsubscribe from. Again this is an example of investing a little time now to save lots of time deleting emails in the future.
Furthermore, you really shouldn’t be “fielding” much spam these days. If your get a lot of spam through remember you can mark them as spam, which should help.
If you’re still getting a lot of spam, consider routing your mail through Google Mail, as they have amazing spam filtering. I can explain exactly how if you contact me.
For some mails you need to delay, typically because you…
- Don’t have to time to deal with it now
- Need something or somebody else
- Want some time to pass before deciding
The question is how do we efficiently delay an email without either leaving it in our inbox, cluttering the place up and causing us to re-make the delay decision over and over for that email until we finally deal with it?
Well, there are several specific ways depending on your email system, the key here is minimum keystrokes / mouse clicks so you’re not creating work for yourself. I’ll explain two specific systems below…
Delaying your action on an email in Google Mail (gMail)
Google have introduced a Tasks facility. Go to More > Add to Tasks. This will automatically create a tasked linked to the email, and a corresponding calendar entry. You can now archive the email and relax.
(This method is better than copying and pasting the URL of the gMail into a calendar entry, because as the calendar entry goes into the past it stays on your Tasks list so is unlikely to get forgotten. It’s also much quicker.)
Delaying your action on an email in Outlook
Simply use the “Follow-up” system in Outlook to create a task associated to the email, then move the email to a “Follow-up” folder so that it’s out of your inbox yet still available when you come back to it later.
Once dealt with you can delete, or move to an ”Archive” folder as you wish.
I hope you’ve found this useful, and would love to hear your comments and suggestions below.
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