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12 Dec

Are your e-mails given VIP-status?

Date: 2012-12-12 11:00 Comments: 2 st

Do you have a to-do-list full of tasks you never work with?

Did you once create a well-structured, complete list of all the things you need to do in accordance with how an excellent to-do-list should be constructed, for instance in Outlook’s “Tasks”-function, but it has now been a while since you even looked at it?

You never get to the list since you keep getting flooded with e-mails.

Perhaps you have even experienced that you spent such a large part of the day processing e-mails that you had to do the non-email-related tasks while working overtime or even another day, when you are even shorter of time?

You have allowed your e-mails to always be prioritized prior to everything else; they are given access to the VIP-line. You give your e-mails the highest priority, regardless what they concern.

One and only one list

As of today, choose to use your list when determining what to do next, rather than primarily deriving tasks from your inbox.

If you make a habit of creating to-do-tasks out of the e-mails you cannot respond to instantly, the to-do-list will give a much more comprehensive overview of all the things you have to do.

If you do not do this, you will not make the tasks which did not originate in an e-mail visible and might unintentionally neglect them. They will not be prioritized simply due to your attention being constantly directed towards the inbox.

Do this

  • When you check your e-mails; immediately reply to the e-mails that will take less than two minutes to respond to. Create a to-do-task out of any e-mail that will take longer than this to process, even if it only entails taking time to read it through thoroughly and formulate a more extensive answer. 

  • If you want to, you could save the e-mails you need to compose replies to in an “Reply to”-folder, but if you move an e-mail into the folder, also make sure to make a note in your to-do-list that you have the intention to answer it. If you don’t, you will again end up with two lists; your ordinary list and the folder with the unanswered e-mails. You do not need to be overly explicit when formulating an “answer an e-mail”-task.
    Writing “Answer Anette” and making a reference to the e-mail in the folder (by for instance linking to it, if this is possible in your e-mailing software), will suffice. 

  • Make a commitment to practicing managing e-mails in this way.

  • If you catch yourself with using the inbox as our to-do-list again, finish up working with the e-mail you are processing and then create to-do-tasks out of the remaining longer e-mails in order to get yourself “out of the inbox” and get going with working on the task that, according to the to-do-list, actually has the highest priority right now.
    That might be responding to an e-mail, but the difference from before is that you have now chosen to do it in relation to all other things you have to do – not only due to receiving it through an e-mail.

E-mails now stand in line as well

If you choose to prioritize tasks by picking them from the to-do-list rather than giving way for e-mails, you will with greater ease do the things you previously had difficulty getting done.

You will prioritize consciously as opposed to being blinded by the e-mail inbox and having all your time consumed by e-mails. You will get more of the right things done on time and will be able to plan ahead rather than getting things done last minute.

What is your way?

How do you keep your e-mail inbox in check? Write a comment to share your experience with others!


Heather Stone

Heather Stone writes:

#1 - 2012-12-26, 01:41

Hi David,
What an interesting perspective on productivity. Controlling your workflow instead of simply responding and putting out fires can be a tricky business, but this seems like a great step in the right direction. Thanks to Martin Lindeskog for sharing this post with the BizSugar community.

David Stiernholm

David Stiernholm writes:

#2 - 2012-12-27, 00:12

Hi Heather,

Thank you; I am happy to hear that you liked the post. Yes, I am very inspired by finding ways to improve and especially simplify our workflow so that it fulfills its purpose the most, with as little effort as possible.

If you like to, I would be happy to hear how this works for you.



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