This post continues with the theme of Getting and Staying in Control over Your Email and your Inbox. I am going to show you a simple way you can setup your Inbox to show you only what you need to work on this week… with today’s action emails at the top.
This system does NOT require anything extra. All you need is Outlook to get started.
While a lot of productivity gurus advise that we should NOT use our Inboxes as a To Do list, most of us still do. Why?
Because it still is the place where most of our To-Dos arrive. It’s easier to leave them there than to transfer them somewhere else. However …
The Problem with working from your Inbox is…
The emails do not arrive in the order in which you need to work on them.
Having them all in the Inbox at the same time can be overwhelming because you’re presented with too much information … you see everything that you need to work on… without any way of knowing what you need to work on first.
You can solve the problem using ONE folder and 2 New Habits
Assumption: I am assuming that your Inbox only has emails that you still need to work on. Emails that you have finished with have either been deleted or filed out of the Inbox (last week’s post compares advantages of filing emails by folders or tags in Outlook).
Here’s what you can do to have your Inbox show you what you need to work on this week, with the emails that you need to work on today at the very top.
Setting up the One Folder System
- Create a folder under the Inbox called Later
- Drag and drop the emails that you don’t need to work on this week into this folder.
- Flag (using the follow up flag in Outlook) the emails that you want to work on today.
- Sort your Inbox by the flag/follow-up column so that flagged items will now appear at the top.
Why do I keep all emails for the week (instead of the day) in the Inbox?
Because I can get a quick overview of what I need to work on in the near future by simply glancing at the Inbox…plus it makes the system easier to use if I only need to look at unurgent emails once a week.
Habit #1: Daily Review
You will need to do the following each time you get new emails in your Inbox.
Either delete or file emails that no longer need your attention. Once you complete this your Inbox will only have emails that still need your attention.
Move emails that you will not be working on this week into the Later folder.
Flag any emails that you will be working on today (and unflag any emails that you have changed your mind about).
Habit #2: Weekly Review
At the start of every week, go to your Later folder and move any emails that you plan to work on this week back into your Inbox.
That’s you new Clean Inbox but…
Probably the biggest problem with this system is the need to manually move emails back into your Inbox.
It is easy to forget about the emails that have been moved to the Later folder and as a result miss out on opportunities (and annoy customers) because of tasks being left undone.
You can solve this problem with a simple bit of automation that eliminates Habit #2
eeminders for Outlook addin installs inside Microsoft Outlook and adds a button to the Outlook ribbon for you. Now when you process the emails in your Inbox, you can tell it when you plan to work on an email.
The email will be moved out of the Inbox to the eeminders folder…. and then automatically (magically) returned to the Inbox at the date and time of your choosing.
Don’t worry. Your emails are safely inside your Outlook. You can go to the eeminders folder at any time if you need to “reschedule” an email.
(If you are also looking for a folder based solution for email filing, then we recommend QuickFile Pro for Outlook which has eeminders intergrated in it. Make sure you select the Pro version)
This simple system (ONE FOLDER and 2 HABITS) will unclutter your Inbox and help you get the right things done by removing (currently) unimportant emails that may distract you.
Instead of hundreds of emails, your Inbox will now show you only what you need to work on this week, with the most important emails at the top.
This system does NOT require anything extra. All you need is Outlook.
The only downside is that it requires some discipline in moving emails back to the Inbox again on a weekly basis.
As a result we have also recommended eeminders for Outlook, an addin that can automatically move emails our of your Inbox and then back again on the dates that you plan to work on them.
Eeminders is very reasonably priced and most users will find that it pays for itself within a month at the most.