Email is intended to be a tool to get your job done, it isn’t supposed to BE your work! For most of us, email actually interferes with getting work done. Employees and business owners alike stress over reading and responding to emails, trying to keep up with the influx of emails all day, every day.
Spring is the right time to clean everything, including your inbox! Scott Sonenshein collaborated with Marie Kondo in her book, Joy at Work, and helps us simplify email. We CAN make email less complicated and time-consuming.
The basic premise: keep only what is needed for the future and store email in a logical set of folders–aim for ten or fewer, including subfolders. Let’s get right to it!
Inbox spring cleaning tips
1. Create folders to store emails you need to get your job done in the future. The folder name can be broad because the emails in your folder are searchable. Example: a “Social Media” folder can store projects related to “Blog”, “Instagram”, and “Facebook”. Others could be for record-keeping for policy emails and a “Joy” folder to store emails that lift you up when you need it!
2. Clean your inbox, file your emails in the folders, then review your existing folders. Identify the ones worth keeping and discard the ones that aren’t needed anymore–do this without the time-consuming action of reading every message in the folder. Leave the sent folder as is (it’s searchable). *Be sure to follow your organization or industry requirements about data retention.*
3. Process your emails every day. Shift your mindset from everything gets kept to everything gets discarded–unless there’s a good reason to keep it. If possible, schedule blocks of time for email, such as the beginning and end of day. This will help minimize distractions and allow you to focus on doing your work. Ask people to contact you via phone or instant message for highly urgent items.
4. Super Tip: if you are overwhelmed because you’ve neglected your emails for so long, take all of your emails and dump them into an archive folder. Remember, the folder will be searchable if you need to retrieve anything. Then make a fresh start and organize your emails going forward. Instant peace and joy!
Email spring cleaning tips
1. Unsubscribe to newsletters and mailing lists that do not help you achieve your ideal work life and become a distraction instead.
2. Reduce the number of emails you send to others. Send fewer emails, get fewer responses. Pause before you copy someone to determine if they really need to be informed or you need a response from them.
3. Be careful with the “Reply All” button. If you need clarification, ask the sender only.
4. Super Tip for Google users: limit the number of pending emails – meaning emails you haven’t done anything with — in your inbox to 50, the maximum number that can be displayed without scrolling.
If email is something you struggle with, a good Virtual Assistant can take care of it for you, so you can get right to work! For help finding one, submit an RFP here.
Lisa Assetta is a Virtual Assistant, organization consultant, and founder of Office Assistance Plus.
This article was adapted from a post that originally appeared on officeassistanceplus.com.