Many of my clients know me for designing and facilitating big picture, high-stakes meetings, like strategic planning, blue sky retreats and advisory boards. But, I also get excited about the nitty-gritty stuff of business, for example staying on top of email. I am a control freak and it gives me joy to know that I’m in charge. Being organized helps me have space and time to think.
When I lead Get Organized with Outlook workshops, lots of participants have hundreds or thousands of emails in their inboxes. If that sounds like you, here are four tips to help you get organized.
- Start fresh. You’re about to read tips for putting things in the right place. But, if you have thousands of emails to process it can be overwhelming. To make it easy to start, create a folder for your backlog (call it something like “To Review”) and move your old emails from your inbox to that folder. Clear out that folder when (and if!) you have time.
- Save your essential business records.Take a few minutes to make a list of essential documents that you need to keep. For example: contracts, agreements or confirmations from key stakeholders. Search for those business records from your newly created “To Review” folder and save them outside of your email program, e.g. in a documents folder named by project or company name.
- Process the rest by moving, unsubscribing and deleting:
- Put things where they belong. For all new emails in your inbox (and to clean up your “To Review” folder), move each email to where it really belongs, such as your task list, your calendar, contacts or document folders.
- Unsubscribe. When you see an email you never read, unsubscribe from it before deleting it. Some websites like LinkedIn generate a lot of notifications and you need to take a minute to log in and change your settings. But, it’s worth it to reduce the number of emails you get.
- Delete, delete, delete. If you’re not sure if something is important, it probably isn’t. Delete it.
- Bulk delete. Which unimportant emails do you have multiples of? Perhaps you’ve got lots of newsletters or system notifications. Run a search for that type of email. If you’re using Outlook, click the first email, press and hold the Shift key, click the last email, and then press the Delete key.
- Remember this is a work in progress. Learning to stay on top of email and be productive is something that we can always get better at. Sometimes it feels like two steps forward, one step back. But, if you keep applying and practicing new tips, it will keep getting easier and better over time.