Are you struggling with a million things and reminders on sticky notes and in your head? Is working from home becoming a 24 hour job? Read on to get some tips on how to clear your inbox and clear your head for a more relaxed lifestyle and productive days! 

In this Lou’s Clues, we’re going to focus on some rules for clearing your inbox.  These rules are:-

  1. Use your inbox for only new emails and items that require attention
  2. Condense your folders just down to a few major categories
  3. Take action on every email that arrives:-
    • Reading for later – move to the reading folder
    • An appointment – make an appointment out of it
    • A task for a later time – create a task
    • Not important but want to keep it – move it to archive
    • Not important, don’t need it – delete it
  4. Clear your inbox of ALL emails once a week
  5. Work out your priorities – Fixed and Flexible work

If you can follow these steps, we can guarantee you will have a newfound freedom and will have brain space to think about much more creative things than day to day mundane email management.  Read on for how you can achieve these simple tasks. 

1. Use your inbox for only emails that require attention

Each time an email arrives in your inbox, you should make a decision about what to do with it.

  • Deal with the email immediately
  • Turn it into an appointment
  • Schedule it for a later time
  • Move it to a folder

2. Condense your folders just down to a few major categories

If your choice is to deal with the email, you should do so straight away. Otherwise, move it to a folder.

Studies show that we don’t need as many folders as you might think because:-

  • We spend as much time thinking about where it should be filed as we do looking for it when we can’t remember where we filed it
  • Searching for emails is quick and efficient.

Below is an example of a simple folder structure:-

3. Turn your emails into appointments or tasks

The normal approach to managing tasks or to-do’s is to put them in a pile or write a to-do list.  What is often missing is a time commitment to actually do the work, which can lead to procrastination and a reactive work style.

By proactively scheduling our work time, we not only create more focused daily plans, but also maximise the chance of work getting done before it comes urgent.

When scheduling activities, always ask yourself the following questions:-

Turning an email into a task or appointment is as simple as dragging the message with your right mouse button and dropping it on top of the tasks icon:

The task bar is your friend! Scheduling time to complete tasks will ensure that you not only manage your own time, but also manage the expectations of others who are waiting for you to reply to them.

4. Fixed and Flexible Work

One of the key ingredients for effective task management is a Daily Action Plan that focuses your attention on the priorities of the day.

To create focus, we need to ensure both our Meeting (Fixed) and Task (Flexible) work for the day is visible through one central reference point, as shown below:

Fixed WorkFlexible Work
Meetings/appointmentsCalls / E-mails
Conference CallsReports
Some time-critical tasksMeeting preparation

5. Clear your inbox of ALL emails once a week

Once you’ve mastered the art of managing your emails, tasks and appointments, you should aim to clear EVERY email out of your inbox once a week. Friday afternoon is a great time to do this so that you’re off to a good start at the beginning of the next week. Some people prefer to do this every afternoon – it’s entirely up to you!

This has just been a short introduction to a course that we can run for you, in house or online to hep you become more productive with your Email. If you need help, give us a call and we will sort out the best way to do this within your budget.


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May 2020