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Published by on Friday, October 2, 2009 at 3:22:00 PM

Take Back Your Inbox - How To Better Manage Email Inbox

Take Back Your Inbox - How To Better Manage Your Email InboxBy Mark Schmulen : If you are feeling overwhelmed by email overload, you are not alone. The average email user receives more than 50 messages a day and many business users are hit with over 200 emails a day. It is time to take your inbox back, and with a little help from the Getting Things Done (GTD) Gurus, David Allen, Scott Allen (no relation) and Timothy Ferriss, I will tell you how to better manage the way you use email.

David Allen's GTD movement, has changed how many of us manage our time and organize our lives. Scott Allen, author of "The Virtual Handshake" and Timothy Ferriss, author of "The Four Hour Work Week" have expanded on the GTD method to offer some great time-saving tips for managing your inbox, and your entire life for that matter. While some of their ideas seem radical, I promise they can help alleviate your inbox woes.

In short, both Allens and Ferriss advocate handling email when you choose to rather than when it arrives. This involves checking your inbox less frequently, making quick decisions as to how you will handle each message, and creating a simple organizational structure using folders.

Review Regularly But Not Often

The best way to regain control of your inbox, is to develop a regular schedule for checking email. Checking email on the fly any time your inbox beeps is a very poor use of time. Allen and Ferriss, both, recommend turning off your email alert tool and checking your inbox once or twice a day.

Ferriss even suggest setting an email auto-response that tells senders when you check your inbox and to let them know that you will eventually get back to them.

I will be the first to admit that for many people this is not practical, but if you are checking your inbox every twenty minutes or on the fly, try setting specific hours in the day to check mail. Honestly, if something is urgent, the sender should pick up the phone or ping you through instant messaging.

Keep Your Inbox Empty

Keeping your inbox empty does not mean you should immediately respond to every email. In fact, Allen argues the opposite. Referencing David Allen's "Getting Things Done," Scott Allen explains that you have three options for dealing with messages: 1) Do It, 2) Delegate It, or 3) Defer It. If you can answer the email in two minutes or less, knock it out. If you are not the right person to answer the email, forward it immediately to the person who is. And most importantly, if an answer can wait, place the email in a To-Do folder and handle it later when you have more time.

Organize Around Action, Not Data A simple organizational structure is critical. However, instead of organizing folders based on projects or subjects, you should create folders based on how you should handle email. Allen recommends the following folders:

Inbox: A temporary place for your emails to arrive and sit until you to determine how to deal with each one.

Deadlines: Create a separate folder for each deadline (ie: by day, week, project, etc.) The folder will dictate when you answer the email. For example, emails placed in the Tuesday folder will be addressed on Tuesday.

ASAP: This is a folder for emails that you can answer whenever you have time; as Allen points out ASAP does not mean urgent, it means any time you can get to it.

Delegated: This folder should store emails that have been sent to others to deal with. You should check this periodically to make sure each message has been answered.

Archive: These folders can be organized by project, customer, date, data or whatever works for you. If you use your delete folder as an archive; be sure to periodically save all messages onto a disk or external hard drive and purge the folder.

Don't over Organize, Rely on Search

Don't make your organizational structure too complicated; it should be intuitive and easy to follow. Most email clients offer search capabilities, which can help you find what you are looking for.

Use Multiple Email Accounts

Allen writes "you can save yourself much time and aggravation, and potentially protect your job, by keeping your personal and business email accounts segregated." I have been doing this for years and have even created a third email account for e-commerce, ezines and other becn mail (becn, unlike spam is permission-based email that you want to read but just not immediately). Keeping separate inboxes is a great way to prioritize your life and keep you focused while at work. In addition, having a second email account with a free webmail provider like Gmail or Yahoo ensures that if you leave your current employer, you will stay have a way to be contacted via email. If you find it difficult to manage your multiple email accounts or you can't access your personal email at work, you can use NutshellMail.com, which offers a free service to help you manage, access and monitor your various messaging accounts.

If you found this post to be informative, I highly recommend you read The Virtual Handshake, The Four Hour Work Week, and Getting Things Done. All three books are about taking back your life and leveraging technology to simplify how you work and live. They have had a very significant on my life and have enabled me to get more (work and play) out of my day.

Mark Schmulen is the author of GetTheNut.com and a co-founder of NutshellMail.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Mark_Schmulen
Published by IzajAhmed Shaikh.
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I am, Mr. IzajAhmed Shaikh, a Computer Professional and a Pro. Blogger, who belongs to Shahabad, Karnataka India. My basic Qualifications are B.Sc., and M.C.M. done from University of Pune., formerly known as, Poona University,. I like to write articles based on my personal experiences.

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