Yes, You Can Stay on Top of E-mail

A while back, one of my friends asked, “How do you get through all of your email. It’s killing me. I just can’t seem to get on top of it.” I know the feeling.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/eyeidea, Image #3691219

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/eyeidea

Actually, I get asked this question a lot. Despite all the current technology and software tools available, many people are falling further behind with each passing day. They just can’t seem to keep up with the avalanche of digital messages hitting their inbox.

But it is really possible to get caught up on your email and stay caught up? Yes. I’ve done so for years, even as the demands of my job have increased. I’m not bragging; it’s just a fact. But I should warn you: there is no easy fix. Taking control of your inbox means changing your behavior. You must be willing to make the investment.

When you are not on top of your email, you feel out of control. Becoming an email ninja is therefore an essential survival skill. But in my opinion, making the investment is well-worth the effort.

When you are not on top of your email, you feel out of control. It is like a dripping faucet that gnaws quietly away at your psyche and your self-confidence. It can also torpedo your career, since people tend to associate responsiveness with competence. Therefore, becoming an email ninja is an essential survival skill.

If I had to boil it all down to four behaviors, I would recommend the following:

  1. Empty your inbox everyday. This must be your goal. You want to be able to go to sleep with every message processed. That doesn’t mean you answer every message. However, it does mean that you have processed every message. There’s a big difference, as I will explain in a minute.
  2. Don’t get bogged down, keep moving. The key is that once you start processing your inbox, you must move quickly. Read each message once and answer this question: “Is this message actionable?” In other words, “Am I being asked to do something?” If so, there are only three possible actions:
    • Do—take action on the task now. I follow David Allen’s two-minute rule. If I can do what is being requested in less than two minutes, I do it immediately. This gets stuff off your to-do list before it ever gets on it. This has the added advantage of making you look responsive.
    • Delegate—pass the task along to someone else. I’m not talking about “passing the buck.” But oftentimes someone else is better equipped to fulfill the sender’s request. Dawson Trotman once said, “I purposed never to do anything others could or would do when there was so much of importance to be done that others could or would not do.” In other words, try to focus on where you add value and offload everything else.
    • Defer—consciously decide you will do the task later. This only applies to asks you cannot complete in two minutes or less or can’t delegate to someone else. You can either add the task to your to-do list or schedule an appointment with yourself to complete it. Fortunately, in Entourage, I convert an email message to a task or an event (i.e., appointment) with a single keystroke.

    If the action is not actionable (i.e., the sender is not requesting that you do something), or not actionable any longer because you have taken action on it, then you have two options:

    • Delete—determine if you might need the information later. If not, delete it. My own assumption is that if it’s really important, someone, somewhere else in the world, has a copy of it.
    • File—if you think you might need the information, file it. But do not create an elaborate set of file folders. This is the single most important piece of advice I can give you. Just file everything in one folder called “Processed Mail.”

      If it is more complicated than this, it will lead to procrastination. Trust me on this. You will have to decide, Should I file this under Tami because it is from her or under Max because it is about him? And then what happens if the email covers more than one subject? Do you make copies of the email and put one copy under each folder? Things can get complicated fast.

      Forget all of that. File your email in one folder and let your email or system software (e.g., “Spotlight”) find it when you need it. The search capabilities of almost every modern email program will enable you to put your hands on any message whenever it is necessary. It may take you a few minutes longer to find the message using this method, but this is offset by the hours you waste trying to figure out how to file your messages.

  3. When you first begin processing email as I have described, it will feel slow and cumbersome. You will have to think about each step. But, this won’t last long. You will eventually be able to move through these steps without consciously thinking about what you are doing. Responding in this manner will become second nature. For example, I can usually process about 100 message an hour, which is my typical, daily volume.

  4. Use keyboard shortcuts and avoid the mouse. The mouse is a horribly inefficient input device. Nearly every mouse action has a keyboard equivalent. In Mac OS X, you can even create keyboard shortcuts for any menu item in any software package. (Check under  | System Preferences | Keyboard & Mouse | Keyboard Shortcuts.)

    My personal goal is to never use the mouse. Every time I do, I must take my hands off the keyboard. It doesn’t sound like that would cost you much time, but it adds up. KeyCue is a Mac program that will help you learn the shortcuts for any program. It is worth the investment. Alternatively, you can check the program’s help file and look up “keyboard shortcuts.”

  5. Let email rules filter the low-priority stuff. If you haven’t discovered email rules, you’re missing a great time-saver. (In Outlook, they are under the Tools menu. In Apple Mail, they are part of the Preferences panel.) They sounds a little geeky, but they are not that difficult to use. Like everything, it will take a little investment, but it will save you hours of time.

    For example, I have a rule that moves email messages I am just copied on to a “CC Mail” folder. I assume that these are lower priority messages. I don’t want them cluttering up my main inbox. I get to them when I can, but it is not high priority.

    I also have Bacn folder for email newsletters, receipts, and other automatically-generated reading material. (“Spam” is unsolicited bulk email. “Bacn” is solicited bulk email.) Entourage has a Mailing List Manager that makes this a breeze. And, like CC mail, it keeps it out of my inbox.

Don’t give into despair. You can keep up with email. You don’t have to be a geek. But you will have to make some new commitments and learn some new behaviors. But in the end, a little extra effort will save you time and give you the satisfaction that you are in control of your workflow.

Question: How are you doing with your email? Are you making progress? What additional advice would you give? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://profile.typekey.com/lcreekmo/ lcreekmo

    This is a great post — very good tips. For years, I was overwhelmed by email — and you are exactly right. It made me appear ineffective and unresponsive. About a year ago, I cleaned up my act at work. It's a daily battle, but I'm on the winning side now.

    I am about to do the same with my personal email — an even bigger issue. But I can't wait to have that in order, as well.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/lcreekmo/ lcreekmo

    This is a great post — very good tips. For years, I was overwhelmed by email — and you are exactly right. It made me appear ineffective and unresponsive. About a year ago, I cleaned up my act at work. It’s a daily battle, but I’m on the winning side now.

    I am about to do the same with my personal email — an even bigger issue. But I can’t wait to have that in order, as well.

  • Michael Covington

    A few questions are brewing after reading this post:

    1)Are you still only checking Email a couple times a day or have you since changed that behavior?
    2)Do you maintain more than one Email account? One for work, one for personal?
    3)Do you use the Projects feature in Entourage?
    4)Do you archive old messages into archive folders to help manage your Exchange Server volume?

    Answers to any/all of these would be helpful. Thanks.

  • Michael Covington

    A few questions are brewing after reading this post:

    1)Are you still only checking Email a couple times a day or have you since changed that behavior?
    2)Do you maintain more than one Email account? One for work, one for personal?
    3)Do you use the Projects feature in Entourage?
    4)Do you archive old messages into archive folders to help manage your Exchange Server volume?

    Answers to any/all of these would be helpful. Thanks.

  • Conrad

    Another tip: don't check your email as it comes in, because this is a frequent distraction.

    Try to check all new email periodically, like once an hour, or twice a day. But don't just go to email when you see a new one come in.

    Perhaps turn off that new-email alert.

    You might look less responsive, but you'll get more real work done.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

       I agree – wholeheartedly.   Frequently checking e-mail is definitely addictive! I just need to go to “e-mail anonymous”, I suppose.

  • Conrad

    Another tip: don’t check your email as it comes in, because this is a frequent distraction.

    Try to check all new email periodically, like once an hour, or twice a day. But don’t just go to email when you see a new one come in.

    Perhaps turn off that new-email alert.

    You might look less responsive, but you’ll get more real work done.

  • http://www.colleencoble.com/ Colleen Coble

    My name is Colleen Coble and I'm an email-aholic. No email has a chance to grow cold in my inbox because I pounce on it the moment it arrives. LOL

    Great tips, Mike, and I really should only check email every hour or so. I really should. Of course I should.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

       LOL!  I just posted something similar.  We can go together to “email-aholic anonymous”!

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    My name is Colleen Coble and I’m an email-aholic. No email has a chance to grow cold in my inbox because I pounce on it the moment it arrives. LOL

    Great tips, Mike, and I really should only check email every hour or so. I really should. Of course I should.

  • Karina Mikhli

    I agree that it's vital to get to the bottom of your in-box daily. However, I'm a big fan of folders. While filing e-mails by people may get confusing, if you file them by project, it'll expedite searching for specific e-mails later.

    Do you rely on a BlackBerry to stay on top of e-mail or do you do it at your computer?

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

       I do the same thing and put my e-mails into folders.  It has worked for me – but I wonder if it is the best way?

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        I’m mixed on this, too. I use folders extensively, mainly because it makes for easier searches later. But I wonder if I’m just becoming an email hoarder. :)

  • Karina Mikhli

    I agree that it’s vital to get to the bottom of your in-box daily. However, I’m a big fan of folders. While filing e-mails by people may get confusing, if you file them by project, it’ll expedite searching for specific e-mails later.

    Do you rely on a BlackBerry to stay on top of e-mail or do you do it at your computer?

  • Kyle Olund

    Have been using the "Processed" folder for close to a year now, and it is great. And that is the folder that gets archived automatically. If I need to find something quick, I use Google Desktop to help me. The "Cc" folder is great too. I've been using that for a few months, and it's wonderful to finally open that up and see a string of ten or so e-mails on an issue that has been solved by someone else. I still have a long way to go, though, in mastering my in-box. Thanks, Mike.

  • Kyle Olund

    Have been using the “Processed” folder for close to a year now, and it is great. And that is the folder that gets archived automatically. If I need to find something quick, I use Google Desktop to help me. The “Cc” folder is great too. I’ve been using that for a few months, and it’s wonderful to finally open that up and see a string of ten or so e-mails on an issue that has been solved by someone else. I still have a long way to go, though, in mastering my in-box. Thanks, Mike.

  • http://www.leadHership.net/ HEATHER

    WOW! 'Cause I took the time to read this "email," I will be a whole new woman with how I handle ALL my emails. Thank you!

  • http://www.leadHership.net HEATHER

    WOW! ‘Cause I took the time to read this “email,” I will be a whole new woman with how I handle ALL my emails. Thank you!

  • http://szikszai.blogspot.com/ Miki Szikszai

    Michael

    An interesting post – I have started taking a batch processing approach to my mail.

    The question I ask is how you combine this with having a personal device such as an iphone – do you have any experience on how you are managing this?

    I would also add that I have also taken on a personal reponsibility to be very careful about when and to whom I send email. Removing my part of the cycle of waste is another way to stop a flood of stuff coming in.

  • http://szikszai.blogspot.com Miki Szikszai

    Michael

    An interesting post – I have started taking a batch processing approach to my mail.

    The question I ask is how you combine this with having a personal device such as an iphone – do you have any experience on how you are managing this?

    I would also add that I have also taken on a personal reponsibility to be very careful about when and to whom I send email. Removing my part of the cycle of waste is another way to stop a flood of stuff coming in.

  • http://www.thewritingroad.blogspot.com/ Scoti Springfield Do

    I once worked for someone who expected me to find my emails and his, usually within minutes. Sometimes the requested emails or information had been processed a year before. I downloaded GOOGLEDESKTOP, which is an amazingly fast search tool. Since I have a photographic memory, I close my eyes and envision the email, then "read" or remember specific words from emails that I used as a key word(s). The advantage of GOOGLEDESKTOP includes pulling up the email plus all related documents.

    GOOGLEDESKTOP searches INSTANTLY the following on your computer: Email (including Gmail, Outlook, Outlook Express, Netscape Mail, Thunderbird, and Mozilla Mail); Chats (from Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger); Web history (from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, and Mozilla); Microsoft Word documents; Microsoft Excel spreadsheets; Microsoft PowerPoint presentations; PDF files; Media files (images, audio, video); Contacts; Calendar appointments; Tasks; Notes; Journal; Zip filesNew! (including content, not just metadata); Text and other files; Password protected Microsoft Office documents (Word and Excel); Secure web pages (HTTPS).

  • http://www.thewritingroad.blogspot.com Scoti Springfield Domeij

    I once worked for someone who expected me to find my emails and his, usually within minutes. Sometimes the requested emails or information had been processed a year before. I downloaded GOOGLEDESKTOP, which is an amazingly fast search tool. Since I have a photographic memory, I close my eyes and envision the email, then “read” or remember specific words from emails that I used as a key word(s). The advantage of GOOGLEDESKTOP includes pulling up the email plus all related documents.

    GOOGLEDESKTOP searches INSTANTLY the following on your computer: Email (including Gmail, Outlook, Outlook Express, Netscape Mail, Thunderbird, and Mozilla Mail); Chats (from Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger); Web history (from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, and Mozilla); Microsoft Word documents; Microsoft Excel spreadsheets; Microsoft PowerPoint presentations; PDF files; Media files (images, audio, video); Contacts; Calendar appointments; Tasks; Notes; Journal; Zip filesNew! (including content, not just metadata); Text and other files; Password protected Microsoft Office documents (Word and Excel); Secure web pages (HTTPS).

  • http://www.KnowtheNetwork.com/ tsudohnimh

    Instead of a Processed Mail folder I use a 3 folder method. Archive, Action, Hold. Action requires me to do something but I can act on it immediately. Hold contains items that are "open situations" but I'm waiting on another party for input. Archive is just the stuff I need to keep.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

       GOOD idea! 

      • http://KnowtheNetwork.com Keith

        Thanks, I share more detail about my method here http://www.knowthenetwork.com/2010/12/2-tech-tips-to-simplify-your-online-life/ I’d love to know what you think.

        • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

          I loved it!  Thanks for sharing – I also subscribed to your posts – so looking forward to some great ideas.

          • http://KnowtheNetwork.com Keith

             Thanks so much.  I really appreciate it.

  • http://www.KnowtheNetwork.com tsudohnimh

    Instead of a Processed Mail folder I use a 3 folder method. Archive, Action, Hold. Action requires me to do something but I can act on it immediately. Hold contains items that are “open situations” but I’m waiting on another party for input. Archive is just the stuff I need to keep.

  • http://blog.winningworkplaces.org/blog/employee-engagement-best-practices Mark

    This is great stuff and I'm sending it your post on to some folks.

    Although there is stuff I can use here, I have my own, very different system (hey, you have to use what works for you, right?).

    1. Is it something that goes in a pre-set or new subfolder? If yes, file. (I don't have very many of these; I tend to only create these for major projects. If I need to find something, I use the "Look For" function or sort by date.)
    1a. If immediate action is needed, do it. If not, mark unread.
    2. If no to #1, read and act on, or keep unread. Since I attend a lot of webinars, I tend to keep the emails w/ registration info unread until the day of the event so I can quickly pull them up @ sign-in time. Or if I'm waiting to hear back from a coworker I'll keep it unread till resolved.

    I'm using Outlook. And I should add a disclaimer that I work in an extremely small office (6 FT and 2 PT) w/ only 4 reports, so I would probably need a more complicated system if we had more staff and/or I had more reports.

  • http://blog.winningworkplaces.org/blog/employee-engagement-best-practices Mark

    This is great stuff and I’m sending it your post on to some folks.

    Although there is stuff I can use here, I have my own, very different system (hey, you have to use what works for you, right?).

    1. Is it something that goes in a pre-set or new subfolder? If yes, file. (I don’t have very many of these; I tend to only create these for major projects. If I need to find something, I use the “Look For” function or sort by date.)
    1a. If immediate action is needed, do it. If not, mark unread.
    2. If no to #1, read and act on, or keep unread. Since I attend a lot of webinars, I tend to keep the emails w/ registration info unread until the day of the event so I can quickly pull them up @ sign-in time. Or if I’m waiting to hear back from a coworker I’ll keep it unread till resolved.

    I’m using Outlook. And I should add a disclaimer that I work in an extremely small office (6 FT and 2 PT) w/ only 4 reports, so I would probably need a more complicated system if we had more staff and/or I had more reports.

  • http://www.catalystspace.com/catablog CATALYST

    You're a genius! Thank you for these genius email tips!

  • http://www.catalystspace.com/catablog CATALYST

    You’re a genius! Thank you for these genius email tips!

  • http://www.withoutwax.tv/ Pete Wilson

    I love this post Michael. I too, empty my inbox every day. I can't stand to go to bed with emails sitting there.

    Your tips will help me achieve my goals quicker and more effectively.

    Thanks so much!

  • http://www.withoutwax.tv Pete Wilson

    I love this post Michael. I too, empty my inbox every day. I can’t stand to go to bed with emails sitting there.

    Your tips will help me achieve my goals quicker and more effectively.

    Thanks so much!

  • http://bonniebruno.wordpress.com/ Photo Buffet

    Fabulous advice! As one who has been working hard for months, to rid the clutter from her life, my Inbox is an area that seems to pile up fast.

    Thanks for some manageable steps. I'm all over it.

  • http://bonniebruno.wordpress.com Photo Buffet

    Fabulous advice! As one who has been working hard for months, to rid the clutter from her life, my Inbox is an area that seems to pile up fast.

    Thanks for some manageable steps. I’m all over it.

  • http://terryhull.net/ Terry Hull

    Great post — with some great, practical ideas! I really appreciated this one.

  • http://terryhull.net Terry Hull

    Great post — with some great, practical ideas! I really appreciated this one.

  • http://www.artistsforchrist.net James

    Fantastic solid advice…time to break the habit of a lifetime!

  • http://www.artistsforchrist.net/ James

    Fantastic solid advice…time to break the habit of a lifetime!

  • http://www.rickwomack.com rick womack

    working through the process now – it’s painful – but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

  • http://www.denadyer.com Dena DYer

    Simple, practical, and do-able. Thanks so much!

  • http://www.rickwomack.com/ rick womack

    working through the process now – it's painful – but there's light at the end of the tunnel.

  • http://www.denadyer.com/ Dena DYer

    Simple, practical, and do-able. Thanks so much!

  • http://profile.typekey.com/dareber/ David Reber

    Michael,
    Great idea on point #4 above on setting Rules. I just set both of your suggestions.

    Thanks for send this link back out on Twitter this morning.

    Follow me at http://twitter.com/dareber

  • http://profile.typekey.com/dareber/ David Reber

    Michael,
    Great idea on point #4 above on setting Rules. I just set both of your suggestions.

    Thanks for send this link back out on Twitter this morning.

    Follow me at http://twitter.com/dareber

  • http://www.ColemanUnlimited.com Sonia Coleman

    Great tips for email… I’ve got to work on the keyboard shortcuts. I’m going to check out the Keycue program you mentioned. I’ve already downloaded it.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.ColemanUnlimited.com/ Sonia Coleman

    Great tips for email… I've got to work on the keyboard shortcuts. I'm going to check out the Keycue program you mentioned. I've already downloaded it.

    Thanks!

  • http://digital.leadnet.org/2008/12/more-tips-to-empty-your-inbox.html Digital @ Leadership Network

    more tips to empty your inbox

    Had a little exercise here at our Leadership Network staff meeting. The question posed, “how do you keep your email inbox empty?” We had a enthralling conversation about the topic, and even a few dissenting voices that don’t care to…

  • http://digital.leadnet.org/2008/12/more-tips-to-empty-your-inbox.html Digital @ Leadership

    more tips to empty your inbox

    Had a little exercise here at our Leadership Network staff meeting. The question posed, "how do you keep your email inbox empty?" We had a enthralling conversation about the topic, and even a few dissenting voices that don't care to…

  • http://www.douglake.blogspot.com D.Lake

    Michael – great advice. Thanks for paying it forward. Much appreciated from an Organizationally Challenged Person!

  • http://www.allanschroeder.wordpress.com Allan Schroeder

    Great Post Michael, I recently got my inbox down to zero from about 1600 emails. I will use some of your ideas to keep it that way. Thanks

  • http://www.douglake.blogspot.com/ D.Lake

    Michael – great advice. Thanks for paying it forward. Much appreciated from an Organizationally Challenged Person!

  • http://www.allanschroeder.wordpress.com/ Allan Schroeder

    Great Post Michael, I recently got my inbox down to zero from about 1600 emails. I will use some of your ideas to keep it that way. Thanks

  • http://www.boerhaus.com Eddy Boer

    Michael, do you have your deleted files (trash folder) auto delete after a certain amount of dates or do you keep them forever for future searches?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I delete everything in the trash folder weekly.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/mhyatt/ Michael Hyatt

    @Eddy,

    I auto-delete at the end of each session.

    Mike

  • http://www.boerhaus.com/ Eddy Boer

    Michael, do you have your deleted files (trash folder) auto delete after a certain amount of dates or do you keep them forever for future searches?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/mhyatt/ Michael Hyatt

    @Eddy,

    I auto-delete at the end of each session.

    Mike

  • Michael

    Bravo! More power to you (and me)! Your tips are reminiscent of an Outlook training course from <a href="http://www.prioritymanagement.com.” target=”_blank”>www.prioritymanagement.com. I use the 4-Ds from them – Do It Now, Decide/Defer, Delegate It, Delete It. The four principles work wonders to my inbox! You would turn emails into tasks/to-dos (with dates), appointments or delete/archive it (with rules).

    The email inbox should be treated as the letterbox at home. Emails are to be treated as normal post mail. We wouldn't open our mail, read it, put it back in the envelope and put it back into the letterbox and use that as our repository of to-dos, bills to pay, etc. But that's EXACTLY what we are doing when we open our emails, read it, leave it in the inbox (or mark it unread again), or manage our life/work/tasks from the inbox.

    We also frequently forget Pareto's Principle (80/20). 80% of the emails are probably not worth our time on, where 20% of them would be where we need to focus on. Apply whatever percentage you wish but you'll find only a very small proportion of emails will warrant our focus and the rest can be delegated or deleted.

    Good luck to everyone on getting inbox to zero!

  • Michael

    Bravo! More power to you (and me)! Your tips are reminiscent of an Outlook training course from http://www.prioritymanagement.com. I use the 4-Ds from them – Do It Now, Decide/Defer, Delegate It, Delete It. The four principles work wonders to my inbox! You would turn emails into tasks/to-dos (with dates), appointments or delete/archive it (with rules).

    The email inbox should be treated as the letterbox at home. Emails are to be treated as normal post mail. We wouldn't open our mail, read it, put it back in the envelope and put it back into the letterbox and use that as our repository of to-dos, bills to pay, etc. But that's EXACTLY what we are doing when we open our emails, read it, leave it in the inbox (or mark it unread again), or manage our life/work/tasks from the inbox.

    We also frequently forget Pareto's Principle (80/20). 80% of the emails are probably not worth our time on, where 20% of them would be where we need to focus on. Apply whatever percentage you wish but you'll find only a very small proportion of emails will warrant our focus and the rest can be delegated or deleted.

    Good luck to everyone on getting inbox to zero!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/human3rror human3rror

    impossible! inbox zero… ugh…! ;)

    i'm an email loser.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/human3rror human3rror

    impossible! inbox zero… ugh…! ;)

    i'm an email loser.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brianfalexander Brian Alexander

    I don't have a huge problem with email volume, but I have found out that it has taken over a huge part of my days lately. Thanks for the tips though. They have helped a lot!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brianfalexander Brian Alexander

    I don't have a huge problem with email volume, but I have found out that it has taken over a huge part of my days lately. Thanks for the tips though. They have helped a lot!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Cecily_Drucker Cecily_Drucker

    Several tools I use: instead of the "tasks" in Outlook, I find that I can keep better track of time commitments by moving an email to my calendar (a day or two before the due date), and then have the Calendar remind me, every morning, of what is "on" for that day. It is easier, I find, than dealing with the Tasks list, which I find requires too much fiddling with. Make sure it reminds you only once a day, or else it becomes as annoying and disruptive as the "new incoming email" reminder–whomever commented to turn it off is spot on. Also, if you are spending an hour a day on your email, how are you billing for that time? That is over 250 hours/year of unbilled time. Take a look at my website for an elegant, efficient, fast and inexpensive solution, if you are interested.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Cecily_Drucker Cecily_Drucker

    Several tools I use: instead of the "tasks" in Outlook, I find that I can keep better track of time commitments by moving an email to my calendar (a day or two before the due date), and then have the Calendar remind me, every morning, of what is "on" for that day. It is easier, I find, than dealing with the Tasks list, which I find requires too much fiddling with. Make sure it reminds you only once a day, or else it becomes as annoying and disruptive as the "new incoming email" reminder–whomever commented to turn it off is spot on. Also, if you are spending an hour a day on your email, how are you billing for that time? That is over 250 hours/year of unbilled time. Take a look at my website for an elegant, efficient, fast and inexpensive solution, if you are interested.

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  • Christopher McGrath

    I saw you post a link to this article on Twitter and it inspired me to clean up my own inbox. Thanks so much!

  • Christopher McGrath

    I saw you post a link to this article on Twitter and it inspired me to clean up my own inbox. Thanks so much!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Mike,

    Is there anything that you can't write simple guides to?

    I'm beginning to suspect that you wrote all of those "…. for dummies" books!

    Great advice. Thanks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Mike,

    Is there anything that you can't write simple guides to?

    I'm beginning to suspect that you wrote all of those "…. for dummies" books!

    Great advice. Thanks.

  • http://www.doorkeepersjournal.net/ Craig McDole

    Great stuff, Michael! One of the keys I got is that you must show the sender the respect in acting in a concise manner. Nothing worse than running in to someone asking about whether you got to that email they sent when you haven't. Most of these principles are already in place. Thanks for the reminders!

  • http://www.doorkeepersjournal.net/ Craig McDole

    Great stuff, Michael! One of the keys I got is that you must show the sender the respect in acting in a concise manner. Nothing worse than running in to someone asking about whether you got to that email they sent when you haven't. Most of these principles are already in place. Thanks for the reminders!

  • http://katdish.blogspot.com/ katdish

    I have my auto-delete button set for any emails with rainbows, butterflies, puppies or kittens. Then I block anyone who sends me emails telling me I'm going to hell if I don't forward their emails. This seems to help…

  • http://katdish.blogspot.com/ katdish

    I have my auto-delete button set for any emails with rainbows, butterflies, puppies or kittens. Then I block anyone who sends me emails telling me I'm going to hell if I don't forward their emails. This seems to help…

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/katy_tw katy_tw

    "Inbox zero" is indeed a great approach to email. I'm using it since one year and a half and I'm very happy about it. For me, I'm using TaskWriter to keep track of my emails, instead of organizing them into folder I just forward a copy to the proper email address in TaskWriter and then I archive the message.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/katy_tw katy_tw

    "Inbox zero" is indeed a great approach to email. I'm using it since one year and a half and I'm very happy about it. For me, I'm using TaskWriter to keep track of my emails, instead of organizing them into folder I just forward a copy to the proper email address in TaskWriter and then I archive the message.

  • http://twitter.com/damonparnell @damonparnell

    Great piece. Just deleted over 400 emails. Many more left to process!

  • http://twitter.com/damonparnell @damonparnell

    Great piece. Just deleted over 400 emails. Many more left to process!

  • http://twitter.com/damonparnell @damonparnell

    I'm using Gmail as a client, any other good webmail options?

  • http://twitter.com/damonparnell @damonparnell

    I'm using Gmail as a client, any other good webmail options?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/katy_tw katy_tw

    @damonparnell No, I don't think so. I really think Gmail is the best.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/katy_tw katy_tw

    @damonparnell No, I don't think so. I really think Gmail is the best.

  • http://twitter.com/kbeck1 @kbeck1

    Love this and often keep my inbox at zero but the file system was too elaborate. Have implemented the Processed Mail folder. THANKS!

  • http://twitter.com/kbeck1 @kbeck1

    Love this and often keep my inbox at zero but the file system was too elaborate. Have implemented the Processed Mail folder. THANKS!

  • http://twitter.com/timdetellis @timdetellis

    This is one of my top favorite blog posts by Michael. I've recommended this to my entire team and have shared it with other organizational leaders. This is a must read and more importantly, a must implement without compromise. Trust me, in my first 30-days of using it I decided to alter a few of the principles and the system broke. You must apply it the way it is defined by Michael without substitute. I've been using it for over 5 months now.

  • http://twitter.com/timdetellis @timdetellis

    This is one of my top favorite blog posts by Michael. I've recommended this to my entire team and have shared it with other organizational leaders. This is a must read and more importantly, a must implement without compromise. Trust me, in my first 30-days of using it I decided to alter a few of the principles and the system broke. You must apply it the way it is defined by Michael without substitute. I've been using it for over 5 months now.

  • Shari

    This is my new top priority goal, beginning now. One question I have – what is your process for keeping the cc mail and bacn current? I have a "read later" folder when I put all of that, but I don't have rules set to place it there automatically. It is difficult to keep those empty as well. Do you have an additional process for that?

  • Shari

    This is my new top priority goal, beginning now. One question I have – what is your process for keeping the cc mail and bacn current? I have a "read later" folder when I put all of that, but I don't have rules set to place it there automatically. It is difficult to keep those empty as well. Do you have an additional process for that?

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  • http://twitter.com/Heart_4_Kenya @Heart_4_Kenya

    Thank you so much for these tips. I have never quite gotten a handle on my emails and sometimes they sit there for almost a month when I really could find the time to respond to them. Thanks for the idea to "just do it" today and empty my inbox every night…I'm going to try my best! : )

  • http://twitter.com/Heart_4_Kenya @Heart_4_Kenya

    Thank you so much for these tips. I have never quite gotten a handle on my emails and sometimes they sit there for almost a month when I really could find the time to respond to them. Thanks for the idea to "just do it" today and empty my inbox every night…I'm going to try my best! : )

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MyWorkAccount MyWorkAccount

    Deploying immediately. Now, can you help me with the junk drawer? Seriously, great tactical time management advice.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MyWorkAccount MyWorkAccount

    Deploying immediately. Now, can you help me with the junk drawer? Seriously, great tactical time management advice.

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  • http://bigfinishmedia.com/ Tim Abare

    Great post! Does Mail (Mac) have a way to turn an email into a task like Entourage?

  • http://bigfinishmedia.com/ Tim Abare

    Great post! Does Mail (Mac) have a way to turn an email into a task like Entourage?

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  • http://www.veronicajonesbrown.com/ Veronica Jones-Brown

    Informative post. Thanks…

  • http://www.veronicajonesbrown.com/ Veronica Jones-Brown

    Informative post. Thanks…

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  • http://jojoagot.com/ Jojo Agot

    Thanks for the tips but I don't know how to use the keyboard! I'm too dependent on the mouse I guess I have to learn it from now on, lol.

  • http://jojoagot.com/ Jojo Agot

    Thanks for the tips but I don't know how to use the keyboard! I'm too dependent on the mouse I guess I have to learn it from now on, lol.

  • http://www.inthenameoflove.org/ Bianca

    Thank you so much! This is great advice :)

  • http://aquientrenos-online.com Wilfredo Mora

    Few data ago i sent you a DM from twitter. As
    far you said you have your inbox in zero, do
    i have to supose my email is in the spam folder
    or in the non- urgent. Or could be wordt it can be
    in the trash folder.

  • http://www.inthenameoflove.org/ Bianca

    Thank you so much! This is great advice :)

  • http://aquientrenos-online.com/ Wilfredo Mora

    Few data ago i sent you a DM from twitter. As

    far you said you have your inbox in zero, do

    i have to supose my email is in the spam folder

    or in the non- urgent. Or could be wordt it can be

    in the trash folder.

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  • http://salvationsogreat.blogspot.com Josh

    Loved the advice.

    My worked moved to a Gmail corporate account, so messages can get multiple labels. Any time I have a new category/project at work, I throw a new label on it and can put as many labels as possible. With Gmail's system, I can instantly search via key words, or through the labels.

    Just discovered your blog today. Love the advice/counsel/wisdom. Thanks!
    My recent post Sacred Friendships- A Book Review

  • http://salvationsogreat.blogspot.com/ Josh

    Loved the advice.

    My worked moved to a Gmail corporate account, so messages can get multiple labels. Any time I have a new category/project at work, I throw a new label on it and can put as many labels as possible. With Gmail's system, I can instantly search via key words, or through the labels.

    Just discovered your blog today. Love the advice/counsel/wisdom. Thanks!
    My recent post Sacred Friendships- A Book Review

  • Anne

    I have used a slightly adapted version of the 'four Ds' ever since I read this. That is, I took the main principles you outline, but I made some 'tweaks' to suit how I work/the job I do. It has totally changed how I work with email. I've been using my new system for a while now & have recommended it on to others too.
    This single post is probably the most practically useful thing I have ever read in the 'social networking' arena. Thanks!

  • Anne

    I have used a slightly adapted version of the 'four Ds' ever since I read this. That is, I took the main principles you outline, but I made some 'tweaks' to suit how I work/the job I do. It has totally changed how I work with email. I've been using my new system for a while now & have recommended it on to others too.
    This single post is probably the most practically useful thing I have ever read in the 'social networking' arena. Thanks!

  • adam de partee

    great article. can't wait to use some of your tips!

  • adam de partee

    great article. can't wait to use some of your tips!

  • Gerard

    Great article. I use the MPS model on Microsoft Outlook. Cheers.

  • http://www.tracydegraaf.com Tracy DeGraaf

    Wow! Great tips. Thank you and I LOVE the Dawson Trotman quote…..he still inspires me!
    My recent post Top Five Tips for Parents at Youth Sporting Events

  • http://www.tracydegraaf.com Tracy DeGraaf

    Wow! Great tips. Thank you and I LOVE the Dawson Trotman quote…..he still inspires me!
    My recent post Top Five Tips for Parents at Youth Sporting Events

  • Gerard

    Great article. I use the MPS model on Microsoft Outlook. Cheers.

  • http://www.tracydegraaf.com/ Tracy DeGraaf

    Wow! Great tips. Thank you and I LOVE the Dawson Trotman quote…..he still inspires me!
    My recent post Top Five Tips for Parents at Youth Sporting Events

  • http://www.tracydegraaf.com/ Tracy DeGraaf

    Wow! Great tips. Thank you and I LOVE the Dawson Trotman quote…..he still inspires me!
    My recent post Top Five Tips for Parents at Youth Sporting Events

  • Jennifer

    I am LOVING this new system. I got rid of all of my file folders as that is exactly what was slowing me down. One area I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions about- when DELEGATING, do you feel the need to somehow still flag it and track it? In many cases I can cc the person who sent me the email and then delete, but in other situations (like from a customer) I feel I need to go behind the scenes to ask someone to be the contact person… I'm afraid of balls getting dropped in cyberspace.. do I hold on to the email until the person I delegated to responds back?

  • Jennifer

    I am LOVING this new system. I got rid of all of my file folders as that is exactly what was slowing me down. One area I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions about- when DELEGATING, do you feel the need to somehow still flag it and track it? In many cases I can cc the person who sent me the email and then delete, but in other situations (like from a customer) I feel I need to go behind the scenes to ask someone to be the contact person… I'm afraid of balls getting dropped in cyberspace.. do I hold on to the email until the person I delegated to responds back?

  • http://twitter.com/phdmike @phdmike

    Great post on this topic… especially the "Processed Mail" folder… tried to incorporate GTDs system and the multiple folders still has me bogged down. Thanks for the tips.

  • http://twitter.com/phdmike @phdmike

    Great post on this topic… especially the "Processed Mail" folder… tried to incorporate GTDs system and the multiple folders still has me bogged down. Thanks for the tips.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allen.maccannell Allen MacCannell

    This will help with email overload: I work for the start-up SenderOK.com that produces a plug-in for Outlook and Gmail + YahooMail that sorts emails into virtual folders: VIP, Important and Routine. If it is 08:50 and you have a meeting at 09:00, you are going to want to click on your VIP folder first, your Important folder second and leave the rest of the emails until after your meeting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allen.maccannell Allen MacCannell

    This will help with email overload: I work for the start-up SenderOK.com that produces a plug-in for Outlook and Gmail + YahooMail that sorts emails into virtual folders: VIP, Important and Routine. If it is 08:50 and you have a meeting at 09:00, you are going to want to click on your VIP folder first, your Important folder second and leave the rest of the emails until after your meeting.

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  • http://www.jdeddins.blogspot.com/ JD Eddins

    Wow, I have needed this advice for a long time. My inbox is currently sitting at 357 unread messages. Major clean up is in order, maybe that will be my project for this Friday. Thanks so much for sharing these tips.
    My recent post Links of the Week

  • http://www.jdeddins.blogspot.com JD Eddins

    Wow, I have needed this advice for a long time. My inbox is currently sitting at 357 unread messages. Major clean up is in order, maybe that will be my project for this Friday. Thanks so much for sharing these tips.
    My recent post Links of the Week

  • http://www.taroby.com/ Augustine John

    Thanks for these valuable tips! I think there are some amazing Email management tool like Taroby <a href="http://www.taroby.com” target=”_blank”>www.taroby.com which allows entrepreneurs manage their email accounts much better than before. It enables them to effectively delegate the emails and also track the status of the work assigned. It's a great solution for managing email overload. Do Check it out.
    My recent post Taroby iPhone App “Sneak Preview”

  • http://www.taroby.com Augustine John

    Thanks for these valuable tips! I think there are some amazing Email management tool like Taroby http://www.taroby.com which allows entrepreneurs manage their email accounts much better than before. It enables them to effectively delegate the emails and also track the status of the work assigned. It's a great solution for managing email overload. Do Check it out.
    My recent post Taroby iPhone App “Sneak Preview”

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  • Jennifer

    I got rid of my folders 9 months ago after reading this. I was a little freaked out but had to do something to stop feeling like a slave to my Inbox. It works!! I am able to keep my Inbox clean and I no longer spend Friday night filing emails. The biggest difference this has made is that I no longer view my Inbox as my To Do list. I could spend an entire office day just going through emails and doing the work required in each one. I never realized that I was letting my Inbox drive so much of my activity. Now, I move everything that will take me more than 5 minutes into my Tasks folder and when my Inbox is empty (a 15 minute process instead of an all day process) I can then look at my Task list and prioritize appropriately. I am much more productive and focused now! This was life changing for me. The best news is that I thought finding things would be more difficult but it's actually EASIER to find things using the search buttons than it was to remember what folder I put something in! Thanks SO much!

    • Jennifer

      (FYI- I did have to add 1 sub folder called "project holding area". I sometimes have to receive feedback from my team before responding to someone's email or making a decision. I wanted them out of my inbox yet not yet placed in processed. Once I receive the feedback and I'm done I then move them all into processed. It's working well.)

  • http://twitter.com/kyleporter @kyleporter

    Heeding the advice. The "processed email" label is potentially life-changing…

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  • http://www.kathyfannon.com Kathy Fannon

    I came across this post of yours about a month ago and implemented some of your ideas and it works fabulously! I am LOVING the 'archive' folder where I can dump everything that's important enough to keep. And when I discovered the 'search mail' function it was a happy day! I always learn so much from you! Thanks, Michael!

  • http://www.brianhinkley.com Brian Hinkley

    My inbox is mostly under control. One problem I have is the filter and folder with stuff I sent myself. When I am at work or out and about and I read great articles like this and feel it is something I may want to look at later I send them to myself. Most of these links just sit in my “mail to self” folder. I do occasionally sort this out. I need a better system to save links where I can access them wherever I need to.

    • Kirk W

      Look up something called ‘instapaper’ I think it might be what you’re looking for.

      • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I use Instapaper and love it!

        • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

           @brianhinkley:disqus @428d3304e42e0488424b878e2f1df43b:disqus Wow, wow, wow!  Love the Instapaper!  Just signed up – this is fabulous.

  • Ashley B

    Overall, this is some really good advice.

    HOWEVER, as the CEO of his company, Mr. Hyatt doesn't have to maintain an elaborate archive of emails that are nothing more than a CY* like so many of the rest of us.

    I don't need the many thousands I have filed, but cannot delete them lest someone in another function comes after me!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      So why don’t you just archive them in a Processed Email folder? That way you have access if you need them.

      • Ashley B

        THANKS for the reply!! Agree!

  • http://www.facebook.com/austinat Roland Austinat

    I like the idea of a zero inbox. I wonder if people aren't cheating a bit with that, though. For example, are you reading every cc: message that lands in its folder? What about e-mail newsletters and other Bacn? Do you still read this? And when? Having them unread in a different folder doesn't seem to be much different than having them unread in the inbox to me.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The goal isn’t to read everything but to process. Sometimes that means scanning the email and purposely deciding the email is not relevant . I do this all the time. i don’t consider that cheating but just exercising judgment. Just because someone else thinks something is relevant to me doesn’t mean it is. Only I can decide that.

      Thanks for your input.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewfridg @matthewfridg

    It's only been a couple days of doing this but it has already changed everything. Thank you for the tips.

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  • http://RichieHughes.org Richie Hughes

    Great tips from an incredibly brilliant leader.
    I will implement tomorrow!

  • http://www.brianhinkley.com Brian Hinkley

    I am doing a great job both at home and work with keeping my inbox empty. I do filter my mail into several folders based on either who sent it like management in my work email. Folders include Archived items, Working on, Management and reference. If an email lands in the management folder I know to read that one first.

    My real problem with email is at home. I have a folder of email I sent to myself. These mostly originate while at work while surfing the internet. When I find something, like this blog post, that I want to read later I email myself the link. I have to admit that most of the time I never go back and read them or delete the email either.

    Now that I have said that out loud I just might look into an alternative for saving bookmarks so that I can access them anywhere.

  • http://twitter.com/japesTwt @japesTwt

    Getting through e-mails productively is becoming an ever-increasing problem; I like your take on it, Michael! I do think there is another dimension to it, though: our role as senders of e-mail. With basic e-mail etiquette, the e-mail monster would be a lot smaller. I'm talking about the evils of:

    1) Needlessly & endlessly CCing the whole world into an e-mail that does not concern 99% of recipients. There are better ways to show your colleugues & managers that you are busy than to CC them into every e-mail you send.

    2) One e-mail, one subject. This helps you to keep it short & simple & helps the reader with actioning it quickly & effectively.

    3) Clearly & directly ask the recipient(s) what you want them to do with the information. E-mail does not convey implied messages well, so if you want someone to do something, go ahead and ask it of them.

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  • Samantha Johnson

    I just blogged about it yesterday and it explains in detail how I’ve conquered mine.

    http://www.happysammy.org/2010/12/lessons-in-e-mail-management.html

    I identified the ‘types’ of e-mails I received on a daily basis and filed them in different e-mail accounts. Tedious but it’s so worth it!

  • http://bladeronner.com Ron Dawson

    I use Gmail to manage email and I absolutely LOVE the new Priority Inbox feature. Brings to the top all the emails that I really want to read. The emails of lower priority (which it learns based on your email habits and behaviors) are filtered to the bottom. About 80% of the low priority ones I can delte w/o even reading. Makes it much easier to filter through the stuff that really needs attention.

    Thanks for the continued encouragement Michael.

  • Ralph Stoever

    Thanks for the post. In general, I follow a similar system.

    My only real issue is with ‘pending’ e-mails. For example, I receive a request for volunteer work on the WE, but before I can answer, I must get additional information from someone else (for example regarding the kids activities).

    In the mean time, the first mail just sits there. It gets worse if the message regarding the kids activities is not specific enough and I needs to be clarified… now I have two lame ducks sitting in plain site.

    Suggestions? I don’t want to loose sight of the messages since they require response within a short time, but I am not satisfied with leaving them clutter my box either.

  • Ralph Stoever

    Thanks for the post. In general, I follow a similar system.

    My only real issue is with ‘pending’ e-mails. For example, I receive a request for volunteer work on the WE, but before I can answer, I must get additional information from someone else (for example regarding the kids activities).

    In the mean time, the first mail just sits there. It gets worse if the message regarding the kids activities is not specific enough and I needs to be clarified… now I have two lame ducks sitting in plain site.

    Suggestions? I don’t want to loose sight of the messages since they require response within a short time, but I am not satisfied with leaving them clutter my box either.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Have you read Getting Things Done by David Allen? If not, I would strongly suggest it. Items like you describe go on a @WaitingFor or Pending list in your To-Do List management system.

      • Ralph Stoever

        Thanks a lot – Will do!
        I’ll need to add triggers (reminders) to the mails in the @WaitingFor folder to ensure that I raise the flags in time (and not just following a weekly review)
        I already set-up the bacn folder (even the word was new for me) too and will add new bacn messages to the filter as they come.

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  • Anonymous

    I absolutely agree with your conclusion that a behavior change is required if the e-mail inbox is ever to be conquered. I work in an international industry and the e-mails come in around the clock. I had to find a system that worked for me. I use Outlook’s rules to color-code incoming messages: Blue means I’m the only one on the “To” line. Large red font = e-mail from my boss. The only e-mails that remain in my inbox at the end of the day are messages that came in after ~6pm or messages that I want to process first thing in the morning. The exception is for a couple of messages that I don’t want to forget about. My goal is to have fewer than 20 e-mails in my inbox when I leave for the day, but usually I have less than 10.

    I’m working to find a system for messages that I delegate, so that I can make sure I follow-up and ensure those delegated actions are completed. I’ve yet to master Outlook’s tasking system.

    I don’t agree with your philosophy on filing & deleting, but I suppose “to each his own”. I find outlook’s ability to search through all of my archives eliminates the need for me to worry about where I should file something. Having general groupings helps me for most of my day-to-day management of information and people. Because I know I might get hit with a question about a product we shipped 2 years ago, I do like to have things archived and relatively accessible.

  • http://bretmavrich.posterous.com/ Bret Mavrich

    Using @OmniFocus and @Evernote, I can forward all of my Delete and Defer categories into the appropriate “buckets.” With OF, I can assign the entire message to a project and even add multiple steps, tag it with a context, and assign a due date—all from Mail for Mac! It’s so sweet. Evernote should be—by the end of 2010—self explanatory.

    Plus, using these two powerful tools to take control of my email inbox makes cycling email on the go from my iPhone so much easier. My OF contact is labeled “Omni” and my EN contact “NewNote.” The elaborately coded email addresses pop up automatically and I’m set to go.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Nozbe, which I now use, is very similar.

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  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    I’m ashamed to say this… but I don’t clean out my Inbox every day. I really should. It is tremendously freeing when I finally get it cleaned out. Like today… I actually cleaned out my Google Reader box (which was a large accomplishment, even though I didn’t read a whole lot, but just skimmed the headlines).

  • http://twitter.com/boutiquefreak Warren Davis

    Great post. Any advice on setting up rules in Mail for those who don’t use Entourage?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I now use Mail. It’s actually pretty much the same. Are you stuck on something in particular?

  • http://twitter.com/promobrain Mike Freestone

    I am caught up as of today…but behind for the last year of emails. Going to give it a go. The good news for me is that I have all my emails, both sent and received, archived in my gmail for searching. Especially useful when on the road.

    @9411cb063daa59c1da605bb8d55aeaea:disqus
    Do you recommend web-based email services like gmail or outlook or the mac version?

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  • Kristievosper

    I’m curious, what do you think about email while on vacation? I generally put an away message up and try to stay away so that I truly “vacate” from work. However, I do find if I comb through it daily deleting everything I don’t need I feel less overwhelmed when I return. Thoughts?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have done it both ways. I like going offline best.

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  • http://twitter.com/RichardEBoston Richard

    How do you handle sent messages?  They pile up too.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I use Gmail, so they are automatically archives in the Sent folder.

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  • Baileywoods2011

    I became a 6 figure earner with this.
    I think all of us entrepreneurs should
    help one another no matter what biz we
    are in……………Don’t you?

    Here is your software and video showing
    how to use it. Let me know if you like it?
    I have other software to help you as well.

    God Bless You!

    http://www.EmailListBuster.com

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  • Donbarger

    I use very similar methods to handle my email. A couple of suggestions –

    1) read the book Bit Literacy – currently free on iBooks.
    2) Use an auto bcc script in terminal to send copies of all outgoing emails to an archive email. Use something like mynamearchive@gmail.com. Don’t give the address to anyone or use it for anything else. This serves as an online auto archive of emails.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this, Michael.

    I never knew about KeyCue. I will definitely investigate that tool, as I admit to not knowing any keyboard shortcuts for my Mac. You just may have saved me just in time, as e-mail was definitely starting to get the better of me!

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  • http://jennyrain.com JennyRain

    is there a way I can email your blog to myself? I couldn’t find it on your “share” icons anywhere… I want to share it with our team leads, this is awesome advice!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You can email the link to yourself. Just go to the bottom of the post and click on the icons that say, “Share and Enjoy.” Unfortunately, this will only email the link, not the actual post. To do that, you will need to subscribe to the blog via email. You can do that here.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidatNOS David Redekop

    This works great at 500 emails over 3 days.  Would love to see you re-post/edit when you get to 1,000+ per day.

  • Janine McDonald

    People dread email because they perceive that it is getting in the way of them doing real work, and/or they use it a procrastination tool.  I ask people to try this…instead of starting the day by opening the inbox and responding to other people’s emails, which usually serve their priorities, not yours  - spend the first 30 minutes of the day working on one of your top priorities so real work can get accomplished before the blocking and tackling that is email begins.

  • http://www.facebook.com/buzzmodo Buzz Bruggeman

    To deal with this problem we e.g., ActiveWords, http://www.activewords.com/ built an Outlook anda a Gmail agent. Radically speeds up how you hand E-Mail. One of these days we will build a Mac version, but 93% of computers are still running Windows.

    And…fwiw.. And David Allen of #GTD fame just named us in his top 5 productivity tools which has been a great lift. http://bit.ly/a5

    Happy New Year!

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  • Rob Sorbo

    Great tips. I’m generally not bombarded with e-mail, but I can really see how I can put these to use. 

    I know you suggest not having elaborate folders, but I found that setting up elaborate folders and then setting up rules that kicks e-mail to those folders is helpful–that has the benefit of the rule and the benefit of a good filing system (although, I agree that the search functions are faster than going to the folder).

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  • tod

    Help i’m not a mac user- like the entrourage idea is their a microsoft equivallant ?
    thanks
    Tod

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Tod, I believe Microsoft Outlook would be the closest thing. In fact, Entourage was a Microsoft product for the Mac!

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  • http://materialminds.com/ Charles Plant

    Excellent set of rules. I somehow manage to keep email down to a dull roar, emptying my inbox, perhaps not every day but at least making sure that nothing in it is more than 24 hours old. My most recent innovation was how to deal with sent items which become clogged and unruly unless they are managed as well. My trick for doing that is to set up a rule that forwards all of my sent mail into my inbox. From there I file it properly or delete it. One more step but an easy one that keeps Outlook even cleaner.

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  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda Adams

    One of the things I’ve done is set up Outlook shortcuts in Office 2010 (they appear on the Home Tab).   It uses Office rules, but puts them in a handy place.  I have several categories where emails are supposed to go.  I click one of the rules link, it assigns the category, and moves it the proper folder.  The rules on incoming email scare me — I went on leave and had it delete the general messenger stuff we get.  I had it dump it into the deleted folder so I could do a quick scan when I returned before I deleted it.  Despite the fact I had specified the specific email address to delete, Outlook also decided that a coworker — one I needed to take care of as soon as I got back — needed to be deleted, too.  Every one of his emails was in the deleted box.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com/ Nikole Hahn

    That and making sure people stop sending me forwards. Lost an important email because it got buried. 

  • tomknesel

    As an Evernote junkie I simply forward emailsthat I want to save for search or reference later to my Evernote account. (Evernote gives you an email address to use for this.) If it is actionable I add “@Tasks” to the subject line and it goes straight to my Tasks notebook in Evernote. Another trick is to use mail filters to forward certain types of mail directly to Evernote folder bypassing the inbox. I use this for industry news and announcements that I can read offline from my iPad.

    I have a similar trick for things like hotel and air reservations. I use a web service called Worldmate that has companion apps for most mobile devices. Rather than manually adding flights and hotels to my calendar I use a filter to forward the reservations to Worldmate that automatically builds an itinerary and tracks flight delays, changes, etc. Another copy goes to, you guessed it, Evernote.

    • Jim Martin

      Tom, I also use Evernote for particular e-mails that I want to keep, especially those that are connected with a project that I am working on.  

  • http://timschurrer.com/ Tim Schurrer

    Is there a major reason why you use Entourage instead of Apple Mail? Do you use Outlook now (since this post is 4 years old)?

  • Jonathan Moore

    I don’t think this blog post can be repeated enough for me :).  My struggle is keeping email balanced and trimmed with two email handlers on my laptop and Android because I use Outlook for work and Thunderbird for personal emails.

    • Jim Martin

      Jonathan, I was also glad to see Michael repeat this post.  I do a pretty good job of dealing with e-mail until my work gets very busy.  Then I read a post like this and realize what I have let go.

  • http://twitter.com/LeadingEveryday Juan Cruz Jr

    I especially liked the tip on not creating elaborate folders. I don’t do that either. I have a “misc” folder for all “processed emails”. I only have folders for each one of my employees to help me with reviews at the end of the year.

  • Steven

    I completely agree with Michael on e-mail. I spent an entire Saturday working through my Inbox 20 years ago, and I have used all of the above ever since.

  • DaveMerrill

    Great post, thank you.  I also get about 100 e-mails per day and I like to file my e-mails in a “processed” folder by month (e.g. Feb2012).  I keep everything immediately available in Outlook for the past six months and auto archive folders older than that.  I have returned to my archived folders maybe once or twice in the last several years.  This allows access to search recent information and stores the content in managable chunks for archiving.  Keep up the great posts, Michael, and enjoy your vacation.  Happy Independence Day to all!

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Some great tips here, Michael.  I have to say I do much of this but I still have a pretty big list of file folders for their “safe keeping”!  I use my e-mail much like a storage system – which I know is not good!  I am trying to become proficient with Evernote – and hopefully can move more to that system than my e-mail system.  Hope you are having a beautiful vaca.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IOJGUFGRAO6EYG5NBVTY2DA2TY K A

    This was awesome advice.  I hammered through my personal email today.  It was amazing that I still had email from 2008 in my Inbox.

    Now to tackle the 1000+ work emails…

    • Jim Martin

      K A – Good for you in tackling this today.  One of my daughters once looked on my computer and saw that I had several hundred e-mails in my inbox.  “Dad why do you have these?”  That question alone motivated me to clean it out!

  • http://twitter.com/solomonharrisky Solomon Harris

    I’m a 12+ year email ninja but found my systems challenged recently with a change in duties and new routine.  If I have more than 20 messages in my inbox waiting for action, I lose my way!  Would you say that checking your email by blackberry before getting to work is counterproductive?

  • Denisedarcel

    Michael,
    I believe in the KISS policy; your tips keep e-mail simple, namely read, respond, file, or delete.

  • Leslie Royce

    Studying your advice, I realized that I needed to add to it for myself.  I created a word processing folder of things I wanted to read that were cluttering up my email waiting for me to find the time.  I copied and pasted the guts of the things I wanted to read and then deleted them from my email.   I know I will only keep some notes from them when I got around to reading them but I also know some of those notes might be very valuable to me – that is why I kept them in the first place.  Now the articles are all sitting in a file called READ WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE.  I think of it as my sewing basket, what my mother would turn to when she got a chance to do some mending.  This has really cleaned out my email and I can turn to my ‘reading basket’ whenever I get a chance.

  • Thomas

    Great information.  I devote an hour a day in the AM and 30 minutes in the afternoon to answering emails with Outlook rules designed to sort messages from my commanders and direct reports to folders I look at first.  Those emails are prioritized and the others, if they can’t be answered in that 90 minutes, wait to be answered (but are still processed) until the next day when they might be a higher priority.

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  • http://www.whiteboardbusiness.com/ Dallon Christensen

    I absolutely love the idea of the second, “private” e-mail. Once I get to the point where I can’t process all of my e-mail, I’ll use an e-mail I have never used before but have on a private domain.

  • http://twitter.com/cc636 ChrisTAL

    I’ve been utilizing the “processed mail” inbox. It’s changed my life! Okay, well…perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But, it’s wonderful. I’m highly more productive with email now. I use Wrike.com to prioritize my todo’s for the office. 

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  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda Adams

    I’m going to have the same problem myself today.  I don’t dare use rules — Outlook doesn’t always filter the right things.  I had it set to delete some general distribution emails, and it also delete a coworker’s — ones that were important.  Instead, I move all the emails except for the current day into another folder.  Then I deal with the current emails.  After that, as time permits, I whack out the general distribution ones and anything I don’t need and follow up on the rest.

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  • Darrell

    Great advice Mike! I’ve started using these and found them to really work! Also, I found Sanebox a great tool to help with emails. It learns which emails should go into your inbox. Check it out sometime.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Sanebox looks pretty compelling.

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  • http://www.brianj33.virb.com/ Brian Jennings

    Thanks. I wrote on this just the other day. I do use folders/labels, but my world is pretty easy to categorize. Many of these folders are temporary (like for an upcoming trip) and I will delete it soon. 

    Also helpful to me…

    Take the 20 seconds, when needed, to unsubscribe from anything that I can live with out.

    Ask my co-workers to not send e-mails that are irrelevant to me.I always make a point to do this when I’m going to be out of the office for a few days. 

    Have an itchey trigger finger (hit delete before I even open an obviously comedic, political or religiously cheesy forward from a frequent abuser). 

    http://brianj33.virb.com/blog/13533493/email

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Honestly, I never clean mine out.

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  • Jared Balis

    Michael, or anyone else who has some advice. I’m a little bit nervous about ditching my elaborate folder system. How did this work for you Michael, or anyone else, when you made the switch from folders to folder? Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/ThomasTJTrent Thomas (TJ) Trent

    I am going to implement this at home and work.

  • http://twitter.com/ThomasTJTrent Thomas (TJ) Trent

    Awesome!

  • M5Joanis

    Reading a book on this: Bit Literacy http://bitliteracy.com/

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  • Lindsay Chung

    I have been reading your book “Platform: Get Notice in a Noisy World” and I had to put down the book and come right here when I read the “About Me” section. I saw the title of this article and had to come over right this very minute and read it.

    Such simple solutions, but I just had to really sit down and put some time into it. My email box was becoming out of control. Thanks for the push!

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  • Clarkhardaway

    Just before I read this I had started to try to get my email under control. I don’t worry about “sender” sorting into files. But I do have folders for clients that I handle. It makes seeing conversations easier to follow for me.

    I also have an “encouragement” folder. In the IT world, every little victory counts and any time I get really positive feedback I put it in a folder so I can go back on days where I don’t feel like I’m making a difference and see times when I have.

  • Marques Holmes

    One of the greatest tools to assist in this endeavor is Xobni, for me it is the single greatest email tool to mankind (yes, it’s that good). 
    It not only can find that email, document or link within in email, it also includes social media integration for contacts tagged in the email, analytics and also allows you to do the same from your tablet or smartphone.  
    I’ve been using it for over 3 years now.  
    It works well with Outlook/Apple/Gmail/Evernote and all mobile operating systems.

  • Wietze

    Awesome advice!

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  • Kay

    I use gmail’s labels and custom star system – which gives me checkmarks, etc to use – then I can easily pull up messages related to a certain project and tell at a glance what I’ve done or not. It knocks the “to-do” list out of the process.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      What do you do for to-dos that aren’t based on an e-mail?

  • Bryan

    I defer messages that will take more than 2 minutes to respond to by flagging them for follow-up today, tomorrow, this week, or this month, and moving them to a “Follow Up” folder. Now, instead of an Inbox full of backlogged messages, I have a Follow Up folder full of backlogged messages. When do you go back and work on the deferred messages?

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  • Linden

    Hi Micheal,

    here’s a time-saving tip. This report-writing site was designed for teachers but is actually great for creating standard flexible emails and letters and is free for anyone to use..

    http://www.schoolreportwriter.com

    All the best,

    Linden

  • Andy Pike

    I was skeptical about handling email this way, but it actually works! Michael was spot-on when he said that it would awkward and cumbersome at first. I have to hide my mouse because I’ve become so used to it. I’m much less stressed now that I’ve committed to cleaning out email by the end of the day each day…it really does work!

  • Jim Voigt

    I have implemented all of this, and the only thing I stepped back on was having things go into specific folders automatically (using rules). I’m too much of a spaz for that, and I found I was wasting a ton of time checking those folders. But the Processed Mail folder is an absolute necessity. I have found that the advanced search functions get my exactly what I need FASTER than having it in separated folders. And it avoids the dreaded e-mail that really should be filed into two different folders if you are going to use the folder system. I hit zero on my inbox almost every day, and even on the days when I fall short, I get close. Thanks for these tips! I know lots of other people who successfully use email rules so don’t let me OCD slow you down on that one!

  • Dave Grissen

    Thanks for the tips. Very helpful.

  • Ryan Hamilton

    Great article Michael (and clearly timeless!). One tool I use within Gmail is Boomerang. I can quickly tell Boomerang to return the email to me at a specified later date if it’s not actionable in 2 minutes. And Boomerang is often smart enough to scan them email for specific deadlines, so often it knows when to return the email!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I use FollowUpThen.com in a similar way. Thanks.

  • Barbara Starlyt

    Hi Michael, you are one of my favorit blogs to keep up with. I love how you speak about real life experiences and not just a lot of jargon for businesses. I can relate and use what you talk about. If it weren’t for you I would never have tried Evernote. It is so full of jargon and for business clients only, that I had a hard time figuring out how to use it for basic life issues. I am still not doing it right, Evernote, I think is for people who are into so many things they need multiple tools to stay organized, I do not need that. I do a lot of research and so my need has to do with that area and everything research entails.
    This email article is exally what I needed for an out-of-control email issue. For me, bless you, for stateing and communicating about more everyday living issues, not just for the business man.

  • Dilin Anand

    Interesting post, and I was pointed here through your amazing podcasts at iTunes.

    Although the article is a couple of years old, the content you have is kind of timeless — especially since we have new people joining the workforce every year. They should make email management part of the curriculum ;)

    I’ve written a deep article which focuses on just email management for working folks. Please feel free to drop by at http://dilinanand.com/2014/05/email-problems-solved-finally/

  • Carlene_Byron

    The closer I get to email Zero, the more email I get. Does anyone else have this problem?

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Carlene,
      You’re not alone! It’s almost like people are receiving some sort of memo that your inbox is almost at Zero and need make sure that doesn’t happen. :)

  • Rob Hughes

    We have clients who set an auto responder to run 24/7, saying “Thanks for your message. I respond to emails between 3PM and 4:30PM, daily. If it’s urgent, call 555.555.5555 and ask for NAME.” In this way, they “train” others to either work with their support team member or grow patience. Now, I realize not all service industries have this luxury, but for them, it’s one piece of their Email Strategy.

    http://vimeo.com/90412677

    This R3 video discusses Email Strategy, and the development of one therein.

  • http://www.evancourtney.com Evan Courtney

    Do you use the same process when on mobile? Or do you avoid processing email then?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I avoid processing email on my mobile. I will check it for quick messages, but prefer to work on my laptop. Thanks.

  • Jiri Palacky

    Hi Michael and everone, emails in my profession – architecture – often come with attachments. Where and how would you recommend to archive my processed Emails including attached files for future reference? Should I give Slack a try? I use MS Outlook Mac (i work for an organization and we use Outlook server) as an archive, but I have reached the space limits several times during last few years (had to ask our administrator for more space, but I am asked to delete/archive). I am now archiving Email on hard disk, simply by dragging them out of Outlook to my system of folders, however I am not able to search through the saved Email content, using Spotlight does not go inside of those files and therefore it is hard fo find anything. Advice would be helpful. Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I am not sure what to recommend. I have used Gmail for several years now. Everything is stored securely in the cloud.