Productivity And Staying On Top Of Things (6)

We discussed inbox zero. There are other inbox and email tricks that work. A simple one is folders and rules.

Having folders or labels and automatic rules to move emails accordingly is key for an organised email system. Gmail now does that automatically, also offers you to unsubscribe from newsletters without opening your emails. Very good! A folder called “@action” gives you the option for emails that need your attention to be filed if you are checking that folder regularly. Adding the “@” makes it the first folder on your folder list too. Adding keywords into your emails like “WFR%”, a code for Waiting For Reply %, which is not a common combination in emails, allows for automatic filters for sent items. This could cover a whole chapter, but I used to add this code in “background colour” (invisible) to outgoing emails that I wanted to show up in my inbox.

This way I created a to-do list sending emails. Practically, if you want to have an email being flagged for follow up with Gmail for instance, you add a code like the one above which then allows for an automatic filter to move that email to the @action folder for instance as you need to follow up on that email. Their new ‘inbox’ concept allows for follow up scheduling, so Gmail is ahead of the game now.

There is plenty of advice on shortcuts and rules like that out there. However, newsletters are key to be moved instantly, or regular emails you want to read in your inbox being “marked read” the moment they arrive. Do not clutter your inbox with anything that is not very important, and if you do not read a newsletter, unsubscribe or spam it. No need to read everything coming your way. And you won’t have time for it either.

Focus. Focus and prioritisation is key to anything you do. At some point or another you would be overwhelmed by your tasks. This could be solely the emails coming your way or the tasks that land on your desk. You never know. However, by putting them in the right order, visually on a piece of paper or into your calendar or trusted system (2To or RTM = ‘Remember The Milk’ is recommended) does not matter. You decide. The challenge with most email programmes is that you can normally only sort by date or sender and there is no field for priority you can sort by. Gmail offers the “important marker” but you cannot filter by it and have different priorities, only “all important emails”. So you would need to find your own way of doing it.

By time of publishing the Gmail Inbox app will help organise your emails similar to described above and I have published an article on 2do before, my preferred todo app. Yet any decent app will do to keep your to-do list afloat.

I have also tried several email programmes that help you to achieve inbox zero, like the ones that remove emails for a week or day or two weeks and then they pop up again. There are more and more clever solutions out there, that allow for dismissing work around like the ones above. Guess programmers catch up with what we suggest.

What is your best practise around emails?

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