Take Those Emails

If you’re anything like me, you have a huge waterfall of email coming in daily.

Every time you go back there, the numbers are greater, and your head starts to swim. You try to paddle through them, answering, or marking them to answer, as you go. Some you delete. Some you leave to “read later”. Okay -forget that one. You won’t. If you can skim it now, do so. If you don’t really want to read it now, you probably won’t ever. So delete it. If it’s one you DO want to read later, highlight it. According to the programme you’re using, you’ll find something you can click on to “Watch” it. That should turn the title red, so that it stands out.

Start your plan to wrestle control from the sanity-threatening mass by setting up a series of folders for the big sections of your emails. e.g. if you are a member of CWOSA (Christian Writers of South Africa) you could make a folder called CWOSA. Do a number of these, for each main group of your emails. You may want to do one for Family or for any other group that writes to you frequently.

Next look for how to make Message Rules. It will be among the options at the top of your Email programme. Now set up corresponding rules for each box. For example, if you’re a member of CWOSA, you would arrange for all emails with the subject line CWOSA to go direct to the folder of that name. If you’ve called a folder “Family” then your rule would be something like all email from . . . and give a list of the email addresses that come from family. Click on AND after each one and you’ll be able to add another address. If you forget someone, you can always return to the “message rules” and modify that one.

Every morning (or whatever time you set aside to “Do Emails”) do a quick sweep through your folders. If there are new posts in the folders, the title of the folder eg. CWOSA should be bold. Click it open, and skim through the mail.

  • Some may not be relevant. Delete them immediately.
  • Delete adverts, appeals for money, forwards – I hate the way people see an email with a beautiful message and feel they HAVE to send them off to everyone in their address book. I delete the lot. The only ones I glance at is if they come from one of four people, folk whom I know won’t waste my time.
  • Some of the emails in the folder will be ones you want to come back to. Mark them as “WATCH”.
  • Those you can answer quickly, dash of a reply, remembering that this is NOT the time for long emails. The only messages I read are those from senders I know and/or with subject lines that catch my attention.

Once you’ve done this, or at a scheduled time later in the day, go back through the folders and deal with / respond to all the emails marked red. If it’s something you want to remember or need to keep track of, see you have a folder marked _Check monthly_ or something like that. (Then don’t forget to check monthly!)

I’ve been doing this with my new laptop since I got it about 5 months ago. The result is a laptop with NO – read that again – NO emails in my inbox. I’ve recently started to clean up my desktop but oh how I wish I had done this from the start.

Oh, one last point. I don’t have the computer downloading email during the day. It shatters me when I hop onto my email programme to send off a quick email and discover 45 emails waiting for me. That’s a guaranteed recipe for instant distraction. So I only download email when I’m ready to deal with it.

It doesn’t matter your system. The important thing is to find what works for you so you don’t waste time searching for emails or sorting through hundreds of messages of no consequence to you.

So – challenge for today.

Set up some useful folders, and make the rules to send the mail to them.