Fifth and final post in a series on FileMAP®: Strategies for Email.
Too Many, Too Often
In wrapping up this short series on my FileMAP® strategy, how we manage and filter our emails comes to the forefront of the discussion.
It's not uncommon to find professionals with 700 or 1000 emails in their inbox. Perhaps it's a bit less common when an IT director keeps 7,000.
But the most peculiar story about a Washington D.C. association executive and his emails always comes to mind. A few minutes before I arrived, he deleted 7,000 emails. He was so excited to let me know this.
“So, you emptied your inbox?' I asked him.
“No,” he said, smiling. “But now I've got the number of emails down to 21,000.”
Wow – 21,000 emails. No filtering there! And that's the dilemma we all face every day, staring at an inbox with 100, 200, or maybe even 700 emails. Daily, weekly or monthly newsletters. Emails from coworkers, bosses, vendors, clients. And the list goes on and on.
We just get too many emails, too often. And for many, they just keep building up. A virtual pile that disappears beneath the bottom edge of our email program.
So, what's a professional to do?
One Coherent Strategy
The definition of a coherent strategy is when the names of the folders storing your files – whether paperwork, electronic documents, and emails – match up. In the illustration below, yellow represents shared work processes, while green, blue and pink represent unique work processes.
Also, in this example, the goal is to use the computer network /cloud as the central storage for as many shared work processes as functional.
The red arrows represent 1) scanned paperwork and 2) emails that could be moved to a shared network or cloud folder.
Practical Steps for Managing Email
The key to transforming elusive email management into efficient email management is to keep emails from sitting and stacking. We must keep our emails moving from the inbox to the computer network/cloud or an email folder for uniquely-email processes, such as Status Reports or Daily Updates in the above example.
What follows below is one strategy that works for both paper and email by keeping things m-o-v-i-n-g.
1. Do Later. This is the secret to successfully managing emails. Indecision and procrastination are time killers. Don't sweat over an email when you're not sure if it needs a response or should be kept. Simply move the email to a folder called Do Later. Review the folder weekly and monthly. If any emails remain longer than 90 days, joyfully delete the items!
2. Do Now/Today. If an email needs a response today, put it in a folder called Do Now. This folder must be emptied by the day's end.
3. This Week/Month. For action items that you want to schedule, move the email to your Task list or Calendar tool.
4. Email-specific folders. Do you track progress of a project that's uniquely managed through email? Create names for folders based on that work process, such as Status Reports in the above example.
5. Computer network/cloud folders. For the most efficient and seamless management of information, whenever possible, keep relevant information grouped by work processes.
As shown in the example above, moving emails from Outlook or your email client to the network/cloud can keep all relevant information for a Project or Budget process in one location. And if placed in a shared folder, the information is available to everyone in the work group.
The Bottom Line.
When everyone in a work group can access all relevant files – scanned paperwork/PDFs, digital documents, media, and emails – all in one location – an elegant efficiency has been achieved.
Not only will you reduce personal frustration and stress, but simultaneously save time and money for your organization.
Are your email folders organized? Are you working from an empty In Box? Have you implemented a coherent strategy for paperwork, computer files and emails?
If you're struggling in any of these areas, I'm always here to help. Contact me by email or call 719-495-7626 and I'll be glad to speak with you.
Related Series Articles
- Post #1 – Introduction: FileMAP®: the secret to streamlined information organization
- Post #2 – Main versus Archive: 80% of what we keep we never use again
- Post #3 – Filenaming strategies: If I file it, can I find it?
- Post #4 – Filenaming strategies: The elegance and efficiency of a shared filenaming strategy