I am being flooded with emails at work. They keep coming in faster than I can answer them. I know there are probably thousands of different setups and tips about how to cope with this. This is my way.
The first thing I created was a grid with 4 dimensions. I took the tips from the book 7 habits of highly effective people
- Urgent and important
- Urgent but not important
- Not urgent and important
- Not urgent and not important
The corollary is to do a filtering process with the emails to classify them according to one of these groups. I use the unread email folder for this. I quickly go through all the emails in this folder. For each of them I ask myself the following:
- Is it going to take me 2 minutes or less to resolve it? If so, do it right away.
- Is it important and urgent, flag it.
- Is it important but not urgent make a note to follow it up in OneNote
- Is it not urgent and not important, drop it.
- Am I a cc or is the email sent to me directly? If I am cc I expect someone else to handle it but i read up on it to keep updated on the process. However I am expecting the details to be handled by them that are not cc
Outlook has a nice feature with dynamic folders. What I did was to add one that automatically holds every flagged email. So in my favorite shortcuts list I got the following folders.
I go trough unread and flag them. The point here is to do a rough filtering process to lower the time I spend on each email. But this time I got only the ones that are flagged. Inbox is used for searching through all the emails.
Emails that I would like to keep for reference, I label with a yellow mark.
This is still a work in progress system. However it helps me to process emails a lot faster and to distill them quickly.
Scott Hanselman has several other tips on email.