I thought I had it all together, I really did. Then, this morning happened…
I have not been driving my kids to school for the past few months since my son got his driver’s license. He has been responsible for getting them to and from school every day. We are in the last couple of weeks of the school year, so the schedule is a little different and crazy.
My son has finals this week and is done at noon every day. Some days he has not had to be there until 10:00 because he only had one final. So I’ve taken my daughter to school because she still has classes all day. Her finals are not until next week.
As I drove on to campus this morning, I suddenly remembered that my daughter was supposed to bring something for a school party today. I confirmed with her that she was and quickly figured out I had time to run to the store, purchase the item, and get it back to school before she needed it.
Both she and I forgot about the email we received a few days ago reminding us what she was supposed to bring.
And, it’s not just this one email. I’ve been very lax about keeping my inbox at zero. A couple of years ago I had it down to zero. I had a great plan that I was confident would help me to keep my inbox organized and at zero most of the time.
But, guess what…I’m back to over 1,000 emails in my inbox again!
I didn’t follow through with the system I had in place. I kept emails in my inbox instead of filing them in the folders I set up.
Here is a recap of my email system:
If you’re like me, your email address is on many mailing lists of your favorite stores, websites, and blogs. Consider whether you are really getting a benefit from receiving these emails. If you are not, take 30 seconds to unsubscribe. For the ones you want to keep receiving, you can set up a folder in which to automatically send them. (See #3 & #4)
As you are going through your email, delete any that are old or irrelevant. I found that I had been holding on to some emails “just in case” I needed them. I discovered that they were no longer needed so I deleted them. If you have 1000’s of emails, the delete key is your best friend. I found emails I was hanging on to from 2014. Yikes! Obviously I did not need those anymore.
3. Create Folders
I am a big fan of the Getting Things Done method of time management by David Allen.
When it comes to email, David suggests setting up folders in which to sort your email. So I set up folders for emails relating to school, kid’s stuff, writing, my blog, and a few others that keep information easily accessible.
Folders are great for those emails that you don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. I created a series of folders with the @ symbol in front of the name so they would be at the top of my list. These are @Immediate Action, @Important Action, @Incubation, @Someday, and @Waiting.
Immediate Action is for emails I need to handle by the end of the day or the next day at the latest. Important Action is for emails that I need to take care of within the week. Incubation is for emails for things I’m considering doing such as an event or a store sale. Someday holds emails with info on things I may want to do at some point in the future. Waiting holds emails where I’m waiting on info or action from someone else before processing.
The key to making these @ folders work is to review them regularly. I check the Immediate Action and Important Action a couple times a day to make sure I’ve taken care of all tasks.
4. Set Up Preferences or Filters
As I mentioned in #1 there are a few email lists I’m on that I still want to get but don’t necessarily want to read everyday. Advertisements fall into that category. So, I learned how to set up preferences so these emails will go directly into a folder I’ve labeled as Advertisements. Then I can go through that folder at my leisure and see if there is anything I want to act on. If you are not sure how to do this in your email system, just search preferences or filters to find out how.
I mentioned above that I have not been following through with this system. I have been thinking lately about what has caused me to stop following it because I’ve had to search for so many emails that were hard to find.
Here are a few reasons I have discovered that have caused me not to follow through:
- I didn’t trust the system.
- I never set up triggers to remind me to check my action folders so I was always afraid to file an email away in case I missed an important deadline.
- I did not get specific enough with my folders. There are more folders that I can create that will help me stay organized.
I’m the kind of girl who likes to see everything. When emails are filed away, I forget about them. So it’s important for me to make sure I’ve recorded any pertinent dates or information in my planner and use the email for reference.
Now that I have figured out what was not working for me with the system, I can make some adjustments.
This is what I’m going to do:
- Go through my 1,000+ emails using the system I outlined above.
- Take action on each new email immediately as I see it. That may mean file, record info, read, or delete.
- Set a specific time each week to look at my action folders to make sure I’m up to date with the actions in those emails.
If you are bogged down with emails, I encourage you to give this system a try. With a little bit of time and patience, you too can keep your inbox at zero forever.