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Managing your email inbox – Part II

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Yesterday’s post talked about the power of deleting emails. Today’s post is about doing your emails. There’s a great rule which basically says if you can do this in 2 minutes or less, do it now. That’s because it will take less time to finish the action in 2 minutes than it will take to park it somewhere else for later and go back to it. So just get it over with—it’s a great feeling!

If the task is really important, needs to be done now, but will take more than 2 minutes, keep it right where it is in the inbox. Go through the rest of your inbox until it’s clear, then do the task. It’s more efficient to clear out the inbox first, because if you need to focus your attention on the task, you want to clear the decks so that nothing else is calling your attention. You might have 3, 4, or more things you need to do right now, so it’s fine to keep them in the inbox until you can move them to the next stage.

If an email needs attending to, but you need someone else to take the first action, delegate it. This might mean forwarding the email to the correct person with your request at the top, writing them a new email outlining what they need to do, or even making a quick phone call or instant message to make your request. (Tip: Whenever you delegate, cc yourself, and a reminder of what you’ve asked for arrives in your inbox.)

But don’t let the ball drop! If you need to keep track of this project, and the action you’re delegating will need to be followed up by you, then park this email in a folder called follow up (a folder that holds items that you are currently working on).

The main thing is to get the message out of your inbox but safely parked where you’ll find it when you need it. It’s really important to have a place to park your emails in a way that relates to the task and automatically reminds you of what you need to do, i.e. follow up, employees, follow up, etc. You should set up your email folders to mirror your paper filing system.

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