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Enhancing Email Efficiently

Everyone spends too long sifting through countless emails, says Richard Wolfe. Here, he provides eight simple tips that will help streamline the email process.

Turn your inbox into your universal task manager

Most people already use their inbox as a task manager, signing off, “I’ll leave it with you”, “Let me know when that’s ready” or simply, “Does that work for you?” so they know they’ll get a reminder. The problem is that we then supplement this with additional tools to supposedly get a better overview of tasks, by adding task lists, apps, flags, reminder tools or simple notebooks.

Why doesn’t this work? Because, the more lists you have, the more complicated it becomes to prioritise. So let’s start with entering them all into our inbox (a simple trick is to email yourself whenever you think of a task).

Prioritise your emails as you read them

The first time you see an email it might be on your phone, while you’re doing other things. So it gets left for later action. The next time you see it, you might be at your desk but you’re too busy with other things, so you flag again it for later action. Soon the list of flags in your inbox has reached an uncomfortable volume and the pending tasks are forgotten until someone reminds you they are waiting for them.

Prioritising will always be hard, but to avoid spending energy on emails, we need to act upon them as we read them and to stop rereading them (only to postpone them again). So, only go to your inbox to read, decide and process. If it can be done in two minutes, complete it. If not, move it into prioritised folders for ‘short-term actions’, ‘later actions’ or ‘need response from others’. Soon your inbox will be empty, after which time you can return to important tasks and ignore your inbox until later.

This is an extract from the Finance & Management Magazine, Issue 249, December 2016. 

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