Resolution Rock (The Taming of the Inbox)

Let me start off by saying that I don’t usually do New Years resolutions, and I can’t remember ever making one that I actually committed myself to doing (or not doing).  But during the last few days of work before the holiday, it became clear to me that there was one thing I could resolve to do better in 2012 that would have a huge impact on my life.

In 2012, I resolve to make my email work for me.

I like to be productive and I like to be efficient.  It requires the right tools set to my standards and preferences to do both of those things well.  I work in an office where my primary mechanism for connecting with other people is to send an email.  My BlackBerry has quickly become tethered to my side, replacing things like a watch, home phone, and my computer (when it comes to social media and email).  Unfortunately for me, my current systems for dealing with messages at work and at home are working against me.  Exhibit A: 174 flagged items in my work inbox.  Exhibit B: 26 unopened emails on my BlackBerry from the past 30 days.

So to get my email working for me, I’m going to get a little inspiration from the Coen Brothers (cheese alert!):

  1. File After Reading – On a typical day at work, I can get about 50 emails.  Instead of letting things sit in my inbox and overwhelm me, I will file them as soon as I’m done with them.  Things I find interesting but don’t have time to read will be filed in a “Read Me” folder, while other project-related things that I might need to reread at a later time will be archived appropriately.  If I ever need to find an email, Outlook has a pretty good search function that can help if I can’t quite remember where it is.  This step will take care of those FYI emails, leaving my inbox for action items only.
  2. O Reply, Where Art Thou? – I know I’m not the best at replying to emails so getting rid of the clutter in my inbox will help me reply within a reasonable timeline.  OK, so this is a resolution hidden inside a resolution, but it’s the one bad habit of mine that I’m committed to working on.  For work email, I’ll aim to reply within 1-2 business days, even if all it is is an acknowledgement (“Hi.  I got your message and I’m working on it”) .  For personal emails, I’ll aim to reply within 5 calendar days.
  3. No Email for Complex Tasks – Sometimes I’m emailed a task and it takes another 5 or 6 emails to fully understand what needs to be done.  Sometimes it takes longer to have that email exchange than it does to do the task.  Email is great for simple tasks – fax this form, proofread this draft, book this meeting – but more often than not, talking is the best way to tackle complex tasks.  So in 2012, instead of sending multiple emails and making a complicated issue even more complicated, I will speak to the person either on the phone or face-to-face.
  4. The Newsletter Who Wasn’t There – It’s high time I unsubscribe from the newsletters that I haven’t been reading or that I don’t need to be getting.   Since getting my BlackBerry last year, I check my email most often on my phone and usually skip over newsletters or advertisements. Yes, I admit that I do like being in the loop about sales at Smart Set, but the newsletters are making me shop there more often (it’s almost like they planned that!) and they’re crowding up my inbox.  I’ll live without a half-price t-shirt. My new mantra for email subscriptions: If I don’t want to read it on my BlackBerry, I don’t need it in my email.

Here’s to taming the inbox in 2012!

How do you keep tabs on your inbox?  Leave a comment!

3 responses to “Resolution Rock (The Taming of the Inbox)”

  1. It’s simple – I don’t get a lot of emails.

    At work, 2 emails in one day is a big deal.

    1. I’m not sure if that would be a dream or a nightmare for me.

  2. Great way to start the new year!
    I’m with you on # 3 definitely. Learned the hard way last year. Did the rest to kick off 2011 – it DOES work great to relieve the stress.

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