Endless email

Tips to curtail the convolution (or how to get control of your inbox). KIRSTY DUNPHEY

Kirsty Dunphey

By Kirsty Dunphey

Is email ruining your life and your productivity? OK, sure it may not be as dramatic as that… but if you’re heart beats a little faster every time you hear that tone your computer makes when you get mail, or if you’re checking your email every few minutes (hey, did you just go and check it while reading this sentence?) maybe there’s a few little things you can do to get your productivity (read, your actual work) back up the priority list.

1. Get the news, when you want it

I looove newsletters, but if I stopped to read each one as it came in, I’d never have any time at all. Instead I’ll sit down with a cocktail (or on a plane) once a week or every few weeks and read through the ones that grab my attention. To make sure I’m not bogged down with them in my inbox, I can set up rules so that they go into a special folder in my inbox called (shock horror) “to read”.

2. Alias it up

An even more advanced version of tip 1 (so that you don’t have to create a new rule for each newsletter) is to have a different email alias for your newsletter subscriptions. So you might be [email protected], but you might sign up to all your newsletters with [email protected] That way all your newsletters will automatically go into the folder you’ve set up.

3. Ditch it

Still on newsletters and regular mailings; be a little cruel and ditch the ones you don’t read.

4. File like a crazy person

I like to keep my inbox empty or with only the most pressing items that need to be done that day. To do this, I’ve got about five folders set up that I file my work into. These ones work for me:

  • To do this week (and I have a diary note to check this once a week).
  • To do soon (I usually only check this once a month, but if I put something in here that has a specified time frame I’ll put a diary note in to remind myself).
  • Waiting on other people (so that I can keep track that what I’m delegating gets done, I find it’s easiest just to CC myself in on any emails that I delegate and pop them in this folder).
  • To read (which we’ve been through).
  • Funny (for the emails that make me giggle, it gives me somewhere to go back to when I need a pick up).
  • Delete (OK, so I didn’t make that folder up, but the only way to stay on top of your email these days is to put MOST email in here! Stop clogging up your system and your mind, deal with it and dump it).
  • Others (I have a few specific folders for different business ideas I’m working on, people I need to visit and other folders that work for me… you’ll figure out what works for you, just don’t go folder mad and have so many folders that you only file and never do the work).

5. More on the Sydney Bristow (aliases)

I travel a lot, and when I’m away someone else (fabulous Megan) will check my email. If you’ve got your very own Megan, consider another email alias that you can give people as a contact in case of emergency email (I just use my hotmail account for this as it’s web based and I know that I can get quick access to it almost anywhere in the world).

6. Be Zen-like

Keep your inbox as empty as possible. I don’t care how brilliant you think you are at email, having 1500 emails in your inbox is a recipe for disaster.

7. Just say no

If you’re constantly getting swamped by annoying emails (perhaps the ones that promised doom and gloom if you don’t pass them on to everyone you know within four seconds) just kindly let the repeat offenders (and they are usually repeat offenders) know that you’d prefer not to receive them anymore.

8. Recycle (good for the environment, and for your inbox)

In an ideal world you should only write the answer to a question once. From there you’ll blog it, or add it to your website’s FAQ, or you’ll keep a template so that you can reuse it.

9. Don’t be a robot

On that last point, any standardised or template emails you send out should still sound like a human (not a robot) wrote them! Don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personality.

10. Delegate with style

If you pass an email on to someone else so that they can action it, CC the person who sent it to you in on this delegation so they know that you’ve done it and they know who the contact person is now. This covers your butt and lets the person know you’ve done something all in one step.

11. Break the addiction

Turn off your email program and just come back and check your emails, say, twice a day. If the thought of doing this sends you into a cold sweat, just check for emails every hour to start off with. If you need to keep your email program open to work from say your calendar or to do lists, just schedule the auto send and receive link so that you have to click it (and then hands off the button!)


Kirsty Dunphey is one of Australia’s most publicised young entrepreneurs and is the founder of www.reallysold.com – a tool to help real estate agents create advertisements. The youngest ever winner of the Australian Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year award, Kirsty started her first business at 15, her own real estate agency at 21, was a self-made millionaire at 23 and a self-made multi-millionaire at 25. For more information on Kirsty or either of her books – Advance to Go, Collect $1 Million and Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can, or to sign up to her weekly newsletter head to: www.kirstydunphey.com

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