Getting Control of the Email Monster
[Editor's note: I wrote this in response to a query from someone looking for email advice. I thought someone else might find value so I created it as an article.]
I love Google features! With hundreds of emails a day, some very important, some urgent, I have many strategies. Pick and choose:
I notice patterns and create new filters almost every day. I use filters to:
* label certain kinds of emails automatically so that when I archive them, they go to the right box without a lot of effort. Each project has its own label. Each client does too. I can scan the mailbox for labels and sort by label that way. It also helps me find old emails much faster.
* place a star in front of emails from important people. So, my business partner has a star by his name and I can quickly scan to see if it is something I need to address right away (or the latest joke he found). Sometimes I create filters with certain key words. For example, my HARO emails that mention "law" get a star while HARO emails that don't mention law don't.
* sort out routine and list-related emails into folders. I probably have 300 folders for various purposes. For example, I have a filter for Facebook alerts and they skip the inbox so I can look at them when I have time. I have set the alerts so that I only get notifications when someone comments on something I posted so I can go back and thank them or respond.
When I've read an email, I immediately answer, delete or file it so my box isn't cluttered with junk. Most can be answered in less than the time it takes to put it on the to do list. The exception is an email that requires more than a few minutes thought. Those get coded for urgency and left in the box for addressing as time opens up. I schedule time each day for dealing with what is left in the box.
If I don't have time to respond, I usually send an email saying I don't have time. Sometimes I look at an email and say, "I have no idea what to do with this one!" In those cases, I write back to the author and say:
* I have no idea what to do with this. Do you have a specific direction to send me?
* This is going to take some time for me to respond. I'm involved in a big project and can get to it in a week. Will that work for you?
* Your email raised an important question for me. Before I respond can you give me more information about xxxx?
* I think that is a great idea and I just don't have time to address it right now. Could you work on it some more and get back in touch next month when I might be able to address it?
Sometimes people have ideas of things they want ME to do. Since I have more ideas than I can get to already, unless I'm really inspired, I punt it back to them or ask them questions and typically they never respond. (It was more about giving me something to do than doing something themselves, I guess.)
We all have ideas we don't have time to do so I don't feel obligated to do everything that is a good idea.
Sometimes I say something like "I'm not the person to do this but I think Kevin would love to have this opportunity."
If I send the idea back, I'm off the hook but have been responsive.