Getting a Handle on your Smartphone Inbox!

Published by Kathryn Anda, PEPworldwide on 3 March, 2014

Have you been struggling to get a handle on your inbox? It is important to manage your inbox methodically because if you do not deal with it, it can quickly spiral out of control.

Your email inbox should only be a temporary facility that holds your emails until you have a minute to process them. There is a simple “four D” method that PEPworldwide and Microsoft both advocate and it is easy to implement:

  1. Delete it. If the email is spam, is of no use to you or is not relevant to you, then simply delete it. Don’t open it and read it or waste time worrying about what it contains.

  2. Do it. If dealing with a particular email will only take two minutes or less, then take those two minutes out of your day and deal with the email.

  3. Delegate it. It is possible for you to forward the email to someone who reports directly to you? Have them deal with the email or get the work done that is requested in the email simply by forwarding the email to them and removing it from your “to do” list.

  4. Defer it. Perhaps the email is directed at you, but you don’t have time to deal with its contents at the moment. You can simply put it into your bring forward (BF) system and move it to another folder to be reviewed at a later date.

The only emails that should remain in your inbox are those that have not been read. These emails should not occupy more than one page at any time. All emails that have been processed, read, and which you have taken action on (BF’d or forwarded, or otherwise delegated) should not be located in your inbox. These emails are all to be moved the appropriate folder so that you no longer see them when you open your inbox.

Efficient and productive use of a smartphoneHow many times per day do your check your email? Try to stay with two or three checks daily and turn off all of the notifications that occur when you receive a new message. Beeps and pop-up windows can be extremely distracting and can interrupt your train of thought. Each time you experience this kind of an interruption it can take you up to thirty minutes to refocus and re-engage your brain with what you were working on before the interruption. Gloria Mark is a leading authority in interruption science and says that this can be a real time waster. (Yes, interruption science is yet another first world problem!).

The New York Times says that around 40% of the time an interruption can cause an employee in the workplace to completely change course once they have been distracted.

For those lucky Executives who have their own assistant or access to one, one suggestion is that emails should be colour coded in order to identify them as those that are received from an Executive’s Superiors, their colleagues and those who report directly to the executive. The remainder of the emails can be left for the assistant to sort through which can save the Executive a lot of time.

If an analogy helps you at all, consider your electronic inbox as a space that is similar to the physical space on your desk top. Clutter on your desk does not improve workplace efficiency nor does it encourage you to be creative or productive. What it does is quite the opposite – it makes you inefficient and can hamper the progress of your work day. Similar physical rules can also be applied to the electronic realm of general organisation and the filing of emails.

Here are our top tips for dealing with emails:

  • Consider your email inbox as a place where emails are temporarily held. It is your job to process the emails and prioritize or assign them. The amount of emails held in your inbox should not take up more than one page.

  • Turn off your smartphone or other devices for a short amount of time so that you can work on something that is important or if you are at a meeting or having down time at home.

  • Schedule a certain amount of uninterrupted time that will allow you to process and organize your email. PEPworldwide recommends that you do not check your inbox more than three times per day.

  • Shut off distracting email notifications (beeps and pop ups). It is not necessary to have notifications of emails if you check them on a regular basis.

  • Utilize your computer’s calendar to manage the workload that you must deal with. If this means that you need to schedule time to prepare email responses that require a bit more thought and time, then that is a good thing.

  • Use your assistant (if you have one) to help you to sort through your emails every day.

  • If you are using a system to organise your emails, consider using public email folders to organize your emails and label the folders with the relevant project or client name so they can easily be found when needed.

  • Make an effort to reduce the double handling of emails.

Article source:

email inbox management, time management, electronic efficiency, planning


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