A big challenge these days for the more "wired" of us is how to organize and manage the flood of email messages that we need to interact with on a daily basis. My clients range from the "just getting started" with an AOL address to high-tech execs at Microsoft and Oracle, with 300+ emails a day, non-stop. Management Guru David Allen shares his tips for managing your mountain of email…
• Create a sufficient archive file folder library within your email program, so you can rapidly drag emails that you just want to save for future reference into those folders. Purge them at least yearly to keep them conscious and give you the freedom to keep anything that strikes your fancy.
• Hold to the 2-minute rule. Read and respond, delete, or file emails that can be dispatched in 2 minutes or less. (Powerful habit, FYI, and more so as your volume of emails grows.)
• Create actionable folders of emails that require more than 2 minutes of focus, visually distinct from your reference folders. If your email program shows your folders alphabetically (as MS Mail), then create at least:
• @Waiting For
That (the "@" sign) will put them at the top of your folder list (so you are reminded that they are different than just reference, and you need to look at them regularly.) Then you have to decide: (1) Will I use the contents of that folder themselves to remind me that I need to do something with/about that email?
(2) Will I record the action of responding to that email in my organization system?
If (1), then you'd better open that folder at least once every day, to not let anything slip. If (2), you have the extra task of tracking the action item in your system, but you don't need to review the email folder--you just have it there to access if you need the original email for discussion-threading.
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About The Writer
David Allen is an international author, lecturer, and founder and President of the David Allen Company, a management consulting, coaching, and training company. He is also a founding partner of Actioneer, Inc., inventor of its patented software model.
Copyright 2003, David Allen & Company. All rights reserved.
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