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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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The e-mail challenge – Who is going to join me?


Are you finding that before Christmas your e-mail got on top of you? What’s your inbox like... bursting at the seams?

I wonder if you are like me and have found that you struggle to keep your e-mail manageable and under control. When my inbox gets swamped with e-mail, I know that I am leaving (and losing) e-mails which really need to be replied to. Yes, I really can’t see the woods for the trees. Not good, and potentially damaging for my credibility and relationships with clients and potential clients. No business, however large or small, can afford to lose business because of poor e-mail discipline.

The problem is that I get too much e-mail every day. Often 100-200 e-mails a day. This is impossible to process daily AND run a business, particularly if I am booked out for a few days in a week running workshops for clients... I had a huge swathe of rules set up to manage my e-mail, until my laptop was completely wiped by PC World and I had to start all over again. I’ve started rebuilding all the rules in outlook again... which is helping, but I didn’t rebuild them quick enough. I seem to spend all my time in an evening after a tiring day running workshops dealing with e-mail. Inevitably, I get lazy and neglect my e-mail and before I know it there are pages and pages and pages of e-mails sitting in my inbox. There has to be a better way to manage e-mail!

It took me about 2 hours to clear down over 1000 e-mails this week. And, there were no surprises in the e-mail mountain. Two-thirds of the e-mails were non-urgent, unwanted or unnecessary e-mails. Mostly newsletters – and often ones where I had not given my permission to be added to the mailing list. (But that is the subject of another blog)

Dealing with an inbox which has under a page of e-mails is manageable. My personal goal is to finish the day with zero e-mails in my inbox. To do this, I will use the following simple rules and stick to them

1.  Turn off Outlook, except for 30 mins at lunch time every day when I will process all my e-mails, and reduce my inbox to zero

2.  When I am processing my e-mail I will aim to:
•    Do it, if it is a quick task
•    Delete it
•    Delegate it
•    OR add to the ‘action’ folder, and schedule in a task to process the e-mail

3.  Schedule in a weekly reading session (of no more than an hour) to read through all my e-mails in the ‘to read’ folder. Once they have been read, then they will be deleted or filed, if full of useful information

4.  Ruthlessly, and I mean ruthlessly, unsubscribe to any newsletter which is not adding value, and any newsletter which I am subscribed to, automatically file into my ‘to read’ folder. Oh, and if I haven’t given permission to be marketed to, I will report the e-mail as spam.

I will aim to eliminate my following bad habits:
1. Always have Outlook open
2. Check my e-mail when I get bored (particularly in the evening on my iPad)
3. Reading an e-mail and then doing nothing with it

What simple rules will help you keep your e-mail under control?

Are you up for the zero inbox challenge?

Author Profile Picture
Heather Townsend


Read more from Heather Townsend

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