HOW TO CLEAR YOUR INBOX AND KEEP IT THAT WAY
Well, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I found an interesting title on Amazon, The Email Warrior, as I researched a new training course about business communication (Email: Sharing your ideas for understanding, agreement, and action, perhaps the subject of a post yet to be written). So I decided to buy the book, even though the price was a bit steep. I figured that it must be a fairly substantial book since I had recently gone through the pricing process for my book. The number of pages and size is a factor in the price, and so I thought (without checking the details that Amazon provides) that I was buying a hefty reference.
When it arrived and I took it out of the package, the first thought I was that I had played a fool. This small book could not possibly have too much in it, and probably won’t make any serious contribution to my sad state of affairs.
My Email Problem
And what was my state of affairs, you may ask? Well, I have had a long love-hate relationship with email (I suspect many of you know exactly what that means). I love the ease and rewards of email, but I know that it steals my focus, attention, and productivity. Click here for a discussion of another drawback to “electronic communication.”
When I was on active duty, during my last job in the Navy, I was the central hub for all of the design and engineering efforts for a major weapon system that was in production, the MH-60R helicopter. My title was Assistant Program Manager for System Engineering (aka, Class Desk), which sounds very important, and apparently everyone in the office thought so, too. They seemingly included me in the to: or cc: line of everything. I received over 250 emails a day for 2 years straight. All of them were urgent; all of them screaming at me for attention. My office followed a compressed workweek schedule, where most employees had every other Friday off. Not me – I looked forward to the solitude of Fridays to try to dig out and sort through all of the noise.
It didn’t get much better, even after I left active duty. The amount of work, personal, and other emails that each of us gets each day is staggering. A McKinsey.com study has shown that the average professional (what I call a Knowledge Worker and they refer to as an Interaction Worker) spends 28% of each workday on email. Like others, I was adrift without much of a plan. Until the little book arrived in my mailbox.
The Email Warrior Solution
Some things are so simple that they elude me for years until someone shines a bright light on it. Then my mind captures the idea and I see it. That’s what happened with this book. I couldn’t put it down when I started reading it; Ann Gomez from Clear Concept has me pegged. She did her homework. She correctly assesses the situation that I (and perhaps millions of others) found myself in, and then sets to work to lay out a plan of attack to fix it.
First, she describes the problem – she called it “the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” about our email. We love it, however, it consumes our time, and (truth be told) it is highly addictive. Then, she explains the flawed strategies that many of us have attempted to employ in our careers – multitasking (who doesn’t do that?), triaging (my Friday routine), and hoarding (yet another of my negative email behaviors).
At last, she arrives at her “Email Warrior” strategies – the 3D approach: Dedicate Time, Do It, Defer It. This is the gold that she delivers. It sounds so obvious, especially as she lays it out so clearly. And the fun part is, it works! With the upfront investment of time (her Step 1), and a new approach to storage (her Step 2), you too can have a clear inbox (her Step 3). In the end, she wraps it all up in a 30-Day challenge. Perhaps that part of her book was unnecessary. She had me after 3 hours, and I shortened the 30 days into one. I was sold on a new outlook for my Outlook!
The Email Warrior Challenge
I am now an Email Warrior. Granted, I only received my first belt and I have many more lessons to learn and battles to fight. But I have a strategic vision and tactical plans, know where I am headed, and a great sensei. Thanks, Ann!
You can do it too. Either buy the book or give me a call. I’ll be glad to help you free yourself from the Bad and Ugly part of Email and place it back in the communication toolbox where it belongs. My Inbox consistently has less than 10 emails in it. Yours can too.
So, first question, how do you quickly remove all emails older than 6weekd to a different “storage file”?
First, create a new folder in your online mailbox or locally on your computer (in Outlook, right-click on your inbox in the folder pane, then select New Folder). Call the new folder something like “Old Emails.” Then, sort the emails in the inbox by date received (in Outlook, fIlter all mail, arrange by date, and newest on top). Scroll down to an email from about 6 weeks ago, and select it. Scroll to the bottom of your list, and while holding down shift, click the last email. Now, drag the highlighted list into the new folder you created. I don’t know of any faster method (aka one-click shortcut), but that generally doesn’t take too long. You can probably leave them in the folder you created until you can go through them over time, or if you want to put them into their Outlook Data File (.pst), that is fine.