professional development

Beat the bulge: how to gain control of your inbox

Paul Higgins /

Each day I come across a well-written article containing tips on how to tackle email, and I have written several blogs and run numerous training sessions on email management – knowing it did little to move the dial. 

I tried problem-solving with software plugins and found them to be okay, however, they often just shifted or delayed action to later. It was still something I would have to do myself.

You all know the stats on how many emails people get a day and you know how many you receive, but what is most important is the number of emails that can be acted upon while you are doing your role – be it in back-to-back meetings, travelling, developing your people or dealing with a crisis. 

I created a solution using a smart assistant, who actively manages my inbox with eight action steps:

1. Task If it can be actioned they can either a) action it b) delegate to someone in your team, or c) place it in a task management system (we use Podio) for you to do later.

2. Contact Add details to your address book and social media

3. Calendar Turn the email into a meeting where needed. It could be a 15-minute call rather than playing email ping-pong

4.  File I have set-up four key folders:

Inbox – must be done by me today
Smart assistant to do – whatever they are working on and removing the clutter out of my inbox
Paul to do – something I have to reply to via email but not urgent for today
Paul to read – something I can read at my leisure

5. Filter or rules Auto-file based on the four folders above. This is particularly useful for LinkedIn updates etc.

6. Unsubscribe How often do you repeatedly delete something because you don’t have the time to unsubscribe? Move it to an unsubscribe folder and the smart assistant knows to unsubscribe for you.

7. Delete How often do you delete items from your inbox that someone else could be doing for you? If your time is valuable, why waste it deleting emails?

8. Leave If your smart assistant can’t complete the seven steps above, they leave it for you.

These eight action steps result in between five to 10 emails in my inbox at any given time, whereas it used to be 100s. Some of my clients talk about their addiction to email. The pace and degree of letting go is a personal choice, however for many of my clients it can be liberating and the profit results of you focusing your time on the things you do best is priceless.

Be brave and tackle the addiction with professional support and remove the pain point.

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