Yesterday we discussed the concept of “processing emails”. Microsoft’s “Four D’s” remains a quick and simplistic model for making decisions about each message in your inbox.
- Delete it
- Do it
- Delegate it
- Defer it
Delete it – Prime targets for deletion are “not urgent, not important messages.
- Messages that contain the information elsewhere eg earlier emails of “email trails” (see more on managing conversations)
- Messages that were “carriers” for attachments that you save elsewhere
- Jokes, personal emails & SPAM
Use subfolders to manage messages that you’ve dealt with, but don’t want to delete. Sub-folders will add size to your mailbox, but are an effective way of keeping your inbox clear.
Do it – if you can do it in less than two minutes, then just deal with it. A surprising volume of e-mail can be dealt with in this manner. Respond to it – either a quick e-mail or a phone call can sometimes complete the task. If no further action is required, move it out of your Inbox. Again, sub-folders can be useful here.
Delegate it – do YOU really need to deal with this, can and should you delegate it? The forward button is there for a good reason! Just be sure to draft some clear instructions, be clear and concise about what you want the recipient to do with the forwarded email.
Defer it – If it can’t be deleted, dealt with in less than two minutes, or delegated to someone else, then it needs to be deferred, prioritised and actioned along with your other key tasks and objectives – outside of email processing time.
Turning messages into tasks will give you a clearly defined list of actions that you can schedule and prioritise – a much more manageable to-do list than a bulging Inbox. If the task requires that a meeting be set to discuss further, you could also turn the message into a meeting request. The time may have to be adjusted depending on the responses but at least the action is in play.
There are exceptions to the rules of course and this sort of regime does not suit everybody, but a daily routine using this methodology can help to tame the out-of-control Inbox.