Select Page

Did you know that your email inbox is a list of someone else’s priorities for you?  Most people check their email first thing in the morning; nearly everyone checks it throughout the day, and for some it is the last thing they do before they go to bed. Do we really need someone or something dictating what we should be working on all day, every day?

I look at my inbox and feel overwhelmed.  I have multiple email addresses for different businesses, and my personal email inbox contains over 6,000 unread emails (most of those are from companies trying to sell me their goods or services).  I also feel I need to keep the entire archive of all my business emails, just in case I need to reference it in the future.

So what happens when I check my email? I get stuck looking at, thinking about and working on things that aren’t my current priority, which makes it nearly impossible to manage my time.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a client and the Executive VP had 4 emails in his inbox.  I asked him how that was possible, and he said he has a system for managing his email.  Right then and there, I decided I needed a system for managing my email. And here is what I’m doing to take control of my email:

  1. I don’t check my email until I have my morning routine completed. My routine consists of a work-out, throwing the ball for my dogs, meditation, time in prayer and daily affirmations.  I want to start my day focused on what is important to me, and when I do that, I am much calmer than I would be if I jumped directly into email.
  2. I started filing my emails into folders sorted by date, not subject.  The folders are:
    1. Today
    2. Tomorrow
    3. This Week
    4. This Month
    5. FYI – which is like an archive for emails that I want to reference in the future.
  3. As I check my email, I move each message into one of those folders, which keeps the clutter out of my inbox.  I then work out of the folder titled Today.
  4. I only check my email 3 times per day – morning, after lunch and at the end of the day.
  5. I have begun unsubscribing from emails that I don’t want or need.  I also established a rule for my email program that automatically moves emails from people not in my address box into another folder, which I’ll check a few times a week.  These two actions have substantially reduced the number of emails I’m getting distracted by.

This is a relatively new practice, and I’m still adjusting to it, but I’ve already seen improvements in how I’m managing my time and staying on task. I’m curious – does anyone else have some tips on how to manage email so that it can be a valuable tool and not a time waster?  If so, please share!