Merlin Mann of 43 Folders recently gave a great talk on common sense tips for managing todays bulging email inboxes. I've revamped my own email practices recently, but I think I'll adopt some of his methods. This is worth a watch, especially if you live by email and are having trouble keeping up.
His system is pretty simple, rather than "checking" email you process email and act on them as appropriate. He associates an action to each email he receives and carries out the action required. Make sure when you check email you process everything rather than just sitting on the emails and letting them pile up unprocessed. Also, he recommends doing email LESS not more and only at designated times (once per hour or whatever works for you).
Great quote from the talk:
The default state of your inbox should probably not be keep sitting here until I start weeping.
Actions he associates with emails are:
- Delete (or Archive): If it's junk or nothing important delete it. When done with emails, archive them. Keep your inbox as an INBOX, not a storage locker. (GUILTY!)
- Delegate - If this is for someone else, forward it and forget it.
- Respond - Keep responses terse and only respond to things necessary.
- Defer - If it's something you need to follow up on later then put in your calendar or in a tickler file to remind you later.
- Do - If the email is an action and can be done in five minutes then do it, otherwise schedule to do it when you have time.
Another good tip he mentions is using email templates to speed up responses. Good stuff!
Merlin also posted a good article on how to make use of a single email archive folder rather than a byzantine folder structure to organize archives.
For more on his Inbox Zero system refer to InboxZero.com