So, you might be saying, ‘Great Josh. You’ve given me some tools for managing all the things that are new but I have 1000 or 2000 or 5000 messages sitting in my inbox. What do I do with those?’ First you have to ask yourself does it bother you to have that many emails in your inbox? For some people that is perfectly OK. If it is OK then leave it alone. But if it is not then we need to look for some strategies for dealing with that. Here are a few.
The thing to note about email is that it gets old really fast – especially if you are receiving lots and lots of emails. The ones that you received last month or six months ago or last year may not be relevant at all anymore. So as email ages its relevance continues to go down.. The things that in your inbox that are pretty old, you may not need to deal with them at all.
Chunks - One strategy that I like to do with clients is we take things in chunks. We start managing the newer emails first and get it into a hot file system so that from today forward we can manage your email more effectively. And then after today’s emails starting to be managed better, we go back and we go through the oldest emails and start archiving those. Chances are that as you go through the oldest emails in your inbox you are going to find a lot of them that can just be deleted. Very few of them will likely still need actions. So though there may be thousands of messages in your inbox, chances are you’ve probably already acted on a bunch of them.
So don’t be scared or worried if you’ve got a large backlog of messages. I would guess if you are still in business you are acting on the ones that are really key already. This is about more so clearing out the space so that you don’t see that overwhelming number in front of you. That is one strategy – working on the newest and then working on the oldest. And that is a really effective way to manage your older emails as well as your new ones.
Archive past a certain date - Another strategy is to pick a day – any day – and emails that have come in before that day you are simply going to archive. You create a new folder and call it ‘Archive’ and maybe you decide that January 1st of last year is when you want to archive everything prior to that day. You create a folder with that date. And then you move everything from that date and older into that Archive folder. If you need something you can always go back into it. But that method clears out your inbox pretty quickly. And again the things that are truly old are highly unlikely that they still need your attention.
A chunk a day – A third strategy. Work on a chunk of your email backlog each day. So lets say you have 5000 messages in your inbox. You could spend a few minutes a day – maybe 20 minutes – and your target might be to get through 100 of those messages. You are going to work quickly because again these are old and not top priority. So you are not going to want to spend tons of your time focusing on the ones you no longer want or need. Instead it’s more so that you are looking for the ones that you still need to do which will be pretty rare. So you could a chunk a day – maybe 25, 50 or 100 messages and work overtime until you have cleared out that backlog.
Treasure Hunt - Another strategy. It is called the Treasure Hunt. You look through that backlog of messages specifically for the things that you still need to do and ignore the rest. So you are looking for the priorities or tasks, the treasures that are still in that inbox but that have been pushed down past the front screen of your messages.
Once you’ve found those and you have moved them into your hot files, then you can take the rest and archive those. So the goal here is to look for the things that are undone and move them into the system that you are now using for managing the tasks, instead of having them just sit in your inbox.
Interested in learning more about keeping your email under control? Learn more at www.profitableproductivitysystem.com.