Cross-posted from the Chapman Academics Blog
Between my work and personal accounts, I receive about six thousand emails per week (how do I know how many? Google recently started sending me stats regularly). And, almost none of that is spam due to some awesome filtering by gmail and my campus IT department. Although I still let things slip through the cracks sometimes, I’ve developed some good skills for managing the email firehose:
- Some items I delete unopened–vendor spam, online purchase confirmations, bill reminders, PR, etc (note: I have an itchy-finger tendency that automatically delete anything that invites me to a webinar, and I have yet to regret that).
- If a message will take less than a minute to respond to (or to forward to the right person), I do that immediately.
- If a message simply needs to be forwarded to someone else to be resolved, I do that immediately.
- When an email entails a lengthy and complex reply, I typically open the reply window on my desktop and return to it throughout the day when I have downtime from my other tasks. As soon as I’m done with it, I hit send. At the end of my day, I typically don’t leave for home unless all of those “open” messages are replied-to.
- At the end of the day I scroll through my inbox and check whether I’ve missed anything that can be resolved. At that point I aim for inbox-zero.
- If anything is left in my inbox from the day before, I review it first thing in the morning and attempt to resolve it then. Rinse and repeat.
In both my personal and work email, I create a fairly exhaustive list of folders for filing away email messages. I delete the spam, but I almost-never delete my other correspondence. Instead, I keep it for if/when I need to refer to it again. Because I support hundreds of faculty members on my campus, it’s helpful to have a record of what problems I’ve resolved with each of them. Several times, I’ve found that they have the same problem more than once, and having a record of how we solved it last time, makes solving it the second or third time even easier.