As we already read in part 1 of our article, you can reduce both time and stress by using your mail program correctly.
So that you can also realize these things, I would now like to recommend to you some serious advice, which I have also carried out. With just a few steps you will feel that you have your projects and communication under control and control.
STEP 1: Bankrupcty
Maybe the term "Bankruptcy" means something to you? What could be translated as "bankruptcy" in German is at the beginning of your setup. How do you deal with mails that are (still) in your inbox or other unimportant directories and do not correspond to our system?
- Option 1: Hard Bankruptcy (recommended) This
step is the most effective - mark all mails in your inbox and delete them. They
don't need you! Now you probably think that this could include important mails.
But to be honest - how do you find this among the hundreds and thousands of
mails? And even if you did - in emergencies, the sender of a previous mail
would probably send you again if it found that you were not responding.
- Variant 2: Soft Bankruptcy (only for emergencies) If deleting all mails triggers panic-like states in your system, then create a new, but temporary folder, e.g. "Old mails - To edit", and move the mails from the inbox into it. Later, you can still handle and process these messages and move them to the correct directories. Set a limit if necessary. Give yourself a week. If you still haven't done anything with the mails afterwards, go to variant 1.
In both cases, the result is Inbox Zero. A state that many people strive for and that you can realize with an estimated effort of 5 seconds.
STEP 2: Make sure you understand what the inbox is for.
"THE INBOX IS USED TO COLLECT MAILS. NOT TO SAVE!"
Don't make it a habit to store mails in your inbox. Interrupt this bad habit immediately, otherwise your entire system will collapse.
You'd better start developing positive habits. These will help you keep your system alive and reduce the stress that an overflowing inbox can cause in you.
STEP 3: Inbox Zero
End your day with Inbox Zero
No matter what happens, at the end of the day there will be no more mail in your inbox.
All you have to do is decide what type of mail it is and where you need to file it. This may be a bit bumpier at first, but you will be faster and faster in no time at all. At the end of your working day, plan on 10 - 15 minutes in which to process your mails. Ask yourself the following question for each mail:Do I have to do anything with the mail?
- Archive it or delete it
- Archive it or delete it
- Can I
get it done in two minutes?
- Do it!
Move to one of our directories and edit later
- Move to one of our directories and edit later
- Can I get it done in two minutes?
STEP 4: A mail program is not a chat! Stop checking your emails every 5 minutes If something is really important and urgent, then you have to make a phone call.
STEP 5: Respond to emails in a timely manner Respond within 24 hours Whether you have the solution or not, reply to a message within 24 hours. If you don't have time, let the customer know that you have received his mail and that you will deal with it. But not until a later date. If you are not able to answer a mail within 24 hours, then your system is bad.
Let's start with the folder structure that you have to create in your mail program. The following directories are crucial for your system:
Serves as a central location where all mails are received and then processed and removed from INBOX at a specific time.
- 01 - ACTION THIS DAY
Mails are stored here that require further processing on the same day. At the end of the day, at the latest on the following day (if you decide shortly before the end of work that a mail is important for the next day), this folder is also empty. Winston Churchill used this method successfully in World War II from October 1941, when the code specialists were understaffed to decipher the messages. With a red sticker and the inscription "Action this day" he marked the work that absolutely had to be done on this day.
- 02 - REFERENCE
Here you will find mails that do not need to be processed or answered. But they serve as carriers of information. These reference emails may not be useful at the time they are received, but they may be useful at a later time (meeting in a month). Mails must therefore be sufficiently marked so that they can be found again if necessary.
- 03 - WAITING FOR
Here you can find, among other things, mails that you have sent and whose reply is still pending. This makes it possible to check the status of the answer at regular intervals and to re-check it if necessary.
Under certain circumstances, it may be useful to create your own project directory in projects that are heavily based on communication with mails. But only with reservations! The danger of using project directories is that you create the most diverse projects and then get a long and confusing list. Additionally you have to decide if a mail in POSTEINGANG has to be assigned to a project or not. This additional decision, however, again has a disproportionate impact on the workflow. It also makes the search more difficult.
From my own experience I can say that the simplified, non-project-related folder structure helps me a lot to organize my mails better.
Now start and set up the described folders in your mail program.
Now we have to decide in the next step what kind of mail it is and what we should do with it. Essentially, the following 5 actions are derived:
- DO (do it)
If you can process and complete the mail within 2 minutes, then you can complete it immediately. But remember, it's not about processing the mail within 2 minutes of it arriving in your inbox, but when you take the time to process your inbox on schedule.
- DEFER (defer it)
If the processing of the mail takes longer than 2 minutes, you should schedule the processing of the mail at a later time.
- DELETE (delete it)
If the mail requires no action, or if it is not relevant and unimportant, delete the mail.
- DELEGATE (delegate it)
If there is someone who is better suited to process the mail, then submit this work. Do not process mails that are not really intended for you, or mails that do not have the necessary competencies and responsibilities.
- ARCHIVE (archive it)
If a mail is needed as a reference at a later time (i.e. currently it is not important), it is stored in a "secure" location.
With the question "What is it for a mail?" and the resulting action (points 1 to 5) you now begin to move your mails in the inbox into the directory intended for it.
In the beginning you will certainly need a little longer to categorize the mail and decide what to do with it. Plan a little more time for yourself - it's perfectly normal for the beginning. After a week you will become faster and more confident and the time you need to process your emails will be reduced. My inbox, which contained about 70 mails after my holidays (really little, this time), I could process in 50 minutes.
I wish you every success. You'll see it's easier than you suspect.