“Every email is a decision waiting to be made.” – Organized Audrey
The average individual sends/receives 125 emails a day. That’s 600+ per week. No wonder companies are concerned with overloaded and at-capacity servers. Your email Inbox is one of the easiest places to have clutter in your office because only you and Mr. IT know what’s hiding there.
Using the Lean Office 5S technique to better manage your email Inbox breaks down into these five steps.
· Sort – If your email management program offers a “rules” feature, decide which emails can be presorted into folders so they don’t even end up in your Inbox. Think about non-time sensitive emails such as HR notices, Professional Association newsletters, notifications from social media, and announcements from vendors such as airlines, hotels and department stores. You’ll feel more in-control knowing that these items are no longer allowed to interrupt your focus with non-urgent business.
· Straighten – Set up a file folder structure that mirrors the project folders sitting on your desk. For example, if you’re working on a project called Matthews Product create a project folder on your desk with that label and then create an email file folder to hold emails related to it. Finally, go one step further and create a file with the same name on your computer. Filing an email and retrieving it later will be much easier if you’ve carefully chosen the proper name of your folders. Avoid creating too many file folders which will only dissuade you in the future from using them and encourages you to leave emails in your Inbox.
· Sweep – Once a week go through your Inbox and delete the emails that are no longer needed. It is estimated that 50% of read email can be deleted once read. If an email represents a future action, create a task for it, removing it from your Inbox. If you use MS® Outlook you can drag your email to your Tasks and create a separate task, keeping the email’s content with it. If it’s something related to a future appointment, insert the email or drag it to your calendar.
· Standardize – For Outlook users, did you know you can color-code emails coming into your Inbox? You can even color code emails sent only to you (no one else who was cc’d or bcc’d on it). I recently met someone who even color codes the emails coming from her boss!
Here’s how to do that within Outlook:
1. Once an email arrives in your inbox, highlight it without opening it.
2. Click on Tools > Organize
3. Click on “Using Colors” in the menu that opens up and assign a color.
4. This is also the area where you can specify colors of emails sent only to you.
Be careful not to go overboard with color coding. A few strategic colors can definitely guide your eye in recognizing email from key people.
· Sustain – Maintenance doesn’t happen automatically. Giving your Inbox attention must occur on a regular basis. Allow yourself time each Friday afternoon to apply these 5S techniques to your Inbox. It’s such a great feeling returning to your office on Monday morning, knowing your Inbox isn’t filled with unnecessary clutter.