Like it or not, email is a big part of our work and home lives. It can be embarrassing and frustrating if we accidentally miss an email or if we forget to follow up on something important. At work, it can really hurt our careers too.
There is a very simple way to stop all the chaos. It has worked for me for the past 10+ years and I would never consider changing my email management technique.
Your inbox should only hold those emails that you are still working on. Any situation that has not been closed. Period. End of story.
Your sent box should only hold those emails that you are still working on. Any situation that has not been closed. Period. End of story.
Your archives section is where you store those emails that have been closed. So, after an item has been closed, move it from your inbox or your sent box to your archives section immediately. You can still access these files as long as they are in the archives section, but they are moved and considered closed.
From Inbox to Archives
I suggest creating folders within your archive section and place emails in their corresponding folder. For example, if your job is to manage 10 different customer accounts, you may want to create a new folder in your archives section for each customer account. Customer Account 1, Customer Account 2, Customer Account 3 and so on. You can easily move a file from your inbox to it’s corresponding archive account.
From Sent Box to Archives
I suggest creating one folder (if it’s not there already) within your archives section for sent items. You can easily move any item from your sent box to your sent box archives.
In my work place, once a situation is closed, it rarely comes back up after 6 months. It is appropriate for me to start to clean out (or delete) items from my archive folders that have been there for 6 months or longer. What’s appropriate for your work place?
At home, I tend to leave items in my archives section a lot longer. Mainly because I get less emails at home than I do at work so storage space isn’t a large issue with my home email. However, I do tend to clean out the archive folder at home once every year or so.
Using an email service that allows you to manage tasks is great too. I use this feature on a daily basis. You can add a task and tell the computer when to remind you to follow up. It’s absolutely wonderful. I don’t think it’s possible to forget to follow up if you’re using the task feature correctly.
This email management technique has worked for me for the past 10+ years. In my career, this is one thing I’ve gotten compliments on time and time again. And it can work for you too.