Protect your inbox

E-mail has evolved to the point of being able to be your free secretary.  Yet, it is easy to view it as one size fits all.  I think this happens because no one tells you how to manage your e-mail (other than when you've exceeded capacity).  

Today, I'm going to share a theme that will be a common denominator for my blogs on time management.  "Protect your time."  

There are more blogs and books for how to manage your e-mail than minutes of the day.  To stay true to my theme of "Protect your time" I am asking you today to "Protect your inbox".

If you opened your inbox right now (because it should be closed so you can get work done), there are likely several e-mails that include addressees of more than just you.  Examples are newsletters, listservs, advertisements, promotions, blog notices, Facebook notices - you get the picture.

The majority opinion says it is ok to let these types of e-mail co-mingle with your important office work.  The justifications are that they are easy to delete (and not even read), it is satisfying to delete e-mails, and a concern about missing something important.  

If this is your opinion then you are inviting unnecessary stress into your workday.  I am not saying you shouldn't be receiving these types of e-mails.  I am saying that they should not take up the prime real estate of your inbox which then takes up prime real estate in your mind and becomes part of unneeded decision making.  

Do not let these e-mails arrive in your inbox (Do not pass go).  Or you are inviting lost productivity and lost revenue (Do not collect $200).  

I had the opportunity last week to try the all in one inbox versus the strategic filters inbox.

I started a new e-mail account with Google Apps and I went for 1.5 days without any filters.  Just seeing newsletters sprinkled among e-mails from my clients was distracting.  Then taking 30 seconds here and there to delete them felt like a waste of time.  On Tuesday afternoon, I set up my "unsubscribe" filter in my new account like I had in my old account.  Any e-mail that contains the word unsubscribe skips my inbox and files itself into a designated folder.  And I pay this secretary nothing for doing the work for me.

Afterwards, I get the joy of seeing how many mass e-mails are in my designated folder and pat myself on the back for saving myself the unnecessary time to deal with them one at a time.  I can still review the folder at any time but I'll be in the mindset to handle those types of messages and will get through them much faster (or not at all if that is my choice).

Below is the filter instructions I followed in gmail.  If I remember correctly, Outlook uses "rules" which I used regularly when I worked for a corporation and it was very handy.

If I haven't convinced you yet, humor me and picture this scenario.  You are drafting a response on an important project and *PING* a new e-mail pops up, but instead of showing up as an e-mail, a real-life person walks to your desk and drops a coupon right on top of your keyboard for 25% off your favorite store if used by this Friday.  You may want that coupon but you want to get it on your own time.

Manage those interruptions and distractions and watch your love/hate relationship with e-mail change overnight.

Setting up a “filter” in Gmail to have mass e-mails sent directly to a folder.

(1) Find the Chain link icon and drop down to “Settings”

(2) “Labels” on top toolbar – Create new label

(3) “Filters” on top toolbar - Create new filter

(4) “Has the words” (enter "unsubscribe") - Continue

(5) Check the box for "skip inbox" and “apply label”- mark the folder (label) you just created

+++++Watch your productivity improve!