Pro Tip For Cleaning out your inbox

I get alot of email.

My email inbox was at 6 971 emails an hour ago. It is now 374 emails less, and 72% of them have been put off to the side that I can reasonably delay.

You know how I did it? I can sell you the idea for $19.95, just send me your PayPal details…. Kidding.
I did it using the ‘rules’ function in Microsoft Outlook. The rest of you management professionals have probably already figured it out but bear with me, I’m learning.

First things first. I created a rule that any email that I am cc:’d on goes into an archive called ‘Inbox for cc:’. And it is automatically archived and not part of my main inbox, so I don’t get those dreaded email notifications from IT telling me that I have reached my storage limit. The current limit is set at 4GB.
I modified that rule to include 5 people from the senior management team – if they ever cc: me on an email, it is immediately flagged in my inbox so I am sure to read it before I end my day.
That rule alone put 5 028 emails into the archive that I don’t have to read right away.

Second thing, I identified the top 10 emails that seem to be repeated. Updates and the like, that mostly just contain data. I found that common subject lines and created rules around them and folders for them to be saved to. Again, folders that are archive folders and not part of the main inbox files. And, if those update emails are flagged as high importance, they are put into my inbox and I am sure to read it before the end of my day.

Then, from there, I sorted first by name. Then from those names, I find the name for the most senior person on the management team. I then sort on subject, and then everything gets sorted by subject. So, the last email in the chain is the only one I have to read and I can see if the issue is open and needs action or if it is closed and it needs filing. If it needs action, I flag it on the right with a date that I feel is appropriate. But I just flag the last email in the chain. The rest of them get filed away in my archive. If the entire email chain is closed, then I file the whole thing.

I only went through 4 members of the management team that would effect me immediately – my director, my deputy CEO, my vice president of sales, and my plant manager – and I cleared out 374 emails in less than an hour. It took about half an hour to forty five minutes before that to establish my email rules. And now I am positive that there are no urgent and pressing issues awaiting me in my email box and, when I do go back to my email, I have a plan to go through the rest of the management team and then the people that report to me. I leave the people who report to me last because I don’t need emails from them when there is a problem – they walk ten feet and bang on my office door.
Those that have sent me an email about an urgent and hot issue, and waited for it to explode like some kind of ticking time bomb and then attempted to diffuse it by saying “Well, I sent you an email”, it didn’t end very well for them at all.

After you’ve set all of that up, make sure to clear out all of your deleted mail and make sure to archive all of your sent mail at the end of every day.

My 4GB of email space, which was threatening to be full all the time and frighten the hell out of me with the notification emails is now down to 3.02GB free and my new year (hopefully all of the year) will be spent working and not operating my MS Outlook like a machine that punches out parts like a press.

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