Email management system that actually works.

A simple four step process to regain control of your mailbox.

Email management system that actually works.

Four simple steps to finally regain control of your mailbox.

In a previous entry, I discussed a system for maximizing productivity and efficiency in managing your mailbox. You can read about it here.

Today, I would like to delve into the specifics of effectively working through your emails.

Point One - Categorization

The first and most important step is to classify each email into one of the following categories:

  • Informative
  • Small actionable
  • Actionable large
  • Reference

Categorize each email quickly and based on your judgment. Do not spend more than a few seconds on this step.

Throughout the day, you will receive numerous emails from various stakeholders. Some of these may be general company updates or market news, falling into the informative category. Read them to stay informed and then file them.

The second category is small actionable. These emails require a quick response, a phone call, or sharing an opinion. Generally, they should only take around five minutes to address. Take immediate action and then file them.

The third category is large actionable. These emails involve more substantial tasks, such as generating a report, undertaking a small project, or conducting new analysis. Set them aside and allocate a proper execution plan for them.

The final category is reference. This includes any other emails that do not fit into the above categories. You can either file them immediately or delete them.

Point Two - Planning / Time Boxing

Having an ever-growing to-do list can be demotivating. To address this, try the technique of planning. Move items from your to-do list into your calendar, prioritize tasks, and assign one main objective to achieve each day.

An article from the Harvard Business Review titled How Timeboxing Works and Why It Will Make You More Productive explores this technique further. You can read the article here, although it may require a subscription.

Point Three – Processing in Bulk

Personally, I prefer to work through my emails in bulk. I set aside two to three hours and aim to tackle as many emails as possible. To maintain uninterrupted focus, I turn off my phone, close the door to my office (when working remotely), and play quiet background music to drown out any external noise. Additionally, I address potential internal distractions by using the bathroom beforehand and keeping a glass of water within reach.

Point Four – Large Actionable

By this point, I am usually done with most of my informative, small actionable, and reference emails. I am left with only the large actionable items, which I convert into tasks in my kanban and then draft an execution plan for each.

The process of managing your mailbox does not need to be dreadful. You can make it more fun by working from a local cafe, putting on some cool music in the background or on your headphones, and just calling it an email processing party.

Cheers. Remember to subscribe.

Until next time.

M | K