There are quite a few books and systems in place for handling the paper tiger in your home or office*, (flylady.net is an excellent resource), but sometimes the “paper” is an overflowing e-mail box. I’ve discovered (through trial and error and error and error) that it’s easier to keep a handle on email than to GET a handle on email.
- Schedule. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, schedule when you read your mail. If you are reading at a time that you are able to give 100% of your attention to your mail, you can go through your mail with fewer distractions.
- Prioritize. Determine what needs to be taken care of immediately and what can wait until later. If you have something that you’re not ready to sort, you can having a “holding” folder outside of your inbox (for instance, a “todo” folder).
Presort. You can “presort” your mail before you read it. This can be done using filters or making use of the priority inbox on the Google Gmail tabs (see “Related Articles” for my article about using Gmail tabs to sort mail.)
Post sort. Many people use files to tame their “paper” tigers. You can also use files to tame your e-tigers. For example, I have files for each of my clients, and all of their mail goes into their file. If I need to find something, all I need to do is to go into their file. I also have a file for any online purchases I make (I can put order confirmations and shipping notifications in this file).
- Trash. If you no longer have a need for an email, dispose of it. It will give you one less message to pass over if you’re looking somewhere else. Sometimes I’ll go through one of my Gmail tabs and delete items when I’m waiting in a line or at a doctor’s office.
- Send it somewhere else. I know some people that tame their email by make sure that anything that can be ignored goes to one address. This is a good place for sign in forms, sweepstakes, or drawings. This is often used for mail that does not need to be checked on a regular basis but can be checked every week (or every month).
Q&A The Gmail Changes. Mary Wu (marywuva.com)
*My oldest child is a high school junior who has taken the SAT. We don’t have a paper tiger, we have an entire herd of paper elephants in the form of marketing materials from various colleges. I wonder if insurance companies should consider increasing fire insurance rates for anyone with a 17 year old.
**It’s just like laundry. You wouldn’t put all your whites clothes with your red clothes with your dry cleaning. And when you’re done, you fold the towels together, match the socks and sort them by family member, and hang the blouses.