As an info junkie myself, I get frustrated about the plethora of information available online about “the what” and “the why” (what you should be doing and why) and lack of “the how-to”. It is so frustrating when you’re on board with an idea and you understand its merits but you’re not sure HOW to execute it. So, where appropriate, I have decided to include that info in my posts.
Managing your inbox (or not) or “checking email” is a huge source of frustration for many small business owners and if you’re an online business owner the problem can be accentuated because you do most of your business through digital means. Based on my work with and feedback from online business owners, filing and organizing email is a common source of frustration and time suck.
It’s easy to spend way too much time organizing, labeling and filing email messages. I’ve worked with clients who have over 200 email folders, not to mention additional nested folders. Can you say “complicated”?
The What: One of the simplest ways to eliminate time spent on filing, labeling and organizing, etc. is to stop doing it. Seriously.
The Why: I suggest applying Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 Rule to email messages we keep: 80 percent of what you retain you will never look for or at again. While I have never officially tracked this metric, I have seen anecdotal evidence that it is true. So, why spend so much time and energy on messages you’ll never refer to again?
The How-To: Create a single processed or “done” folder (or use the archive feature in Gmail) and file all of the messages you’re going to keep into it. Then, invest some time into learning how best to search that folder so you can find information quickly. For Apple Mail, this MacLife article on using search tokens (i.e. From, to, etc.) will help get you started. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, I highly recommend purchasing and downloading X1 Search 8 (formerly X1 Professional Client)- it’s so worth it! Feel free to message me privately if you have any questions about X1. And, if you’re using Gmail, you can find advanced search operators here.
The second part is extremely important. Having the ability to retrieve what you need quickly will help you to trust the process. Trust and confidence in these steps will eliminate the need to spend unnecessary time filing or further processing your email messages. After all, you have more email coming in as we speak. Don’t worry about moving or reorganizing your existing folder/label structure. Simply create one new folder, label it something meaningful to you and file completed messages into it.
When I first introduce this concept to online business owners, they are hesitant to try it. Understandably so. It is a significant change from how you may have been filing email but I promise it will provide you with a meaningful result. I urge you to try it for 2 weeks…most people who have tried it are fans in much less time.
If you’ve already switched over to this method of filing messages, let me know in the comments how it’s working for you. If you haven’t, would you consider taking my two week challenge?