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Back from holidays and facing hundreds of emails? It’s overwhelming! Where do you even start?
Resist the temptation to press [Ctrl-A] and [Delete].
Instead, use my strategies to slay the inbox dragon. You might even be able to hold on to some of that precious post-holiday serenity.
But first, a quick backtrack. I’ve written previously on:
These articles can help you tackle your inbox smartly.
Here’s a quick review of The ONLY 4 things you should do with new email.
Can you action the email in a few minutes or less – reply, forward, attach a file, make a note, find a file, change a document, etc?
If so, do it straight away.
Need more time or resources? Then flag for later.
Now please, I implore you, don’t use this option to procrastinate on tasks you can do quickly. To turbo-charge your email management, you need to make it a habit to process emails fast, and defer only as a last resort. You want as few flagged emails as possible.
If it’s a genuine flagger, schedule it:
- Put the task in your diary for the due date
- Flag it (an Outlook option) for the due date, or
- Move it to a To Do email folder that you action regularly.
If no action is needed but you think you may need the email for reference, file it.
4. Delete Or Archive
If no action is needed and you don’t need the email, delete or archive it. I tend to rarely delete and instead archive everything.
These are good everyday habits, but when you’re facing the fire-breathing, post-holiday inbox, more drastic measures are needed. Ready? Here they are…
Tips for Slaying the Post-Holiday Inbox Dragon
Tip 1. Start With The Most Recent Emails
Earlier issues often get resolved later, so don’t waste time on things that change or take care of themselves.
If you find an email with a trail of previous emails, you can deal with the latest, run a search of your inbox for that subject, and delete or archive all the previous ones with a single, satisfying click.
Tip 2. Process Similar Emails Together
What if you have multiple emails from the same sender or on the same topic?
Run a search on your inbox for that sender or topic, and tackle all the emails together.
You’ll do less mental shifting, letting you get through the emails faster and with more focus.
Tip 3. Set A Time Limit
I suggest you slay your inbox dragon in small chunks.
You’ll get weary and indecisive after a while, reducing your speed and increasing your frustration.
Limit yourself to 30-minute stints and you’ll make better progress.
Tip 4. Be Ruthless
In today’s email-overloaded world it’s hard to be effective without being a little hard-core in your resistance to email excess.
I suggest you make it your policy to:
- Unsubscribe freely (but not to my newsletter!)
- Reply only when needed (eg consider not sending a detailed You’re Welcome to every Thank You)
- Action quickly
- Defer rarely.
You’ll get through your inbox faster this time, and generate less mail in the future.
Then you can take off your amour, lay down your sword, and have some chocolate.
You deserve it.
Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the Get Organized Wizard newsletter.