Our company has built our own custom task management system that integrates with our SEO and Marketing client reporting system. It’s great. In fact, I’m a big fan of task management. But having a task management system in place, even when used properly, still does not take care of all of my task management issues.
For me, my email inbox is also another to-do or task box. In fact, the first tasks I accomplish each day are those “assigned” to me via my email. This is important because while our task system is comprised of tasks assigned internally, my email box is largely made up of tasks assigned to me by people outside of the office such as clients and prospective clients. Even the most important internal tasks run secondary to the inbox!
So how do we manage our inbox tasks effectively? Here is my list of the most effective ways to manage your inbox task list:
- Delete (or file) your emails when completed.
Yep, that’s pretty much it. Its simple really but you’d be surprised at how often that one-step solution is often ignored.
So here is how it works: everyday go through your email inbox one email at a time. First you must read the email and (assuming its not spam) then you must act accordingly. If its a question, hit reply and answer the question right then. If you need more information, and unless you don’t have immediate access to the information, go get what you need in order to reply. You want to get as many emails responded to as possible. Once you’ve replied delete (or file) the email so you can move on to the next one.
If the email is some information that either sets you up for a more lengthy task or is a bit of information you’re seeking for a task already in progress, then note the information into the appropriate task in your task management system or, if necessary, create a new task for yourself. Once you’ve done that then you’re free to delete (or file) the email and move on to the next one.
After you’ve gone through all your emails, the only ones that should be remaining are those that are still pending some kind of action. Maybe you need to reply but are waiting on some specific information that you don’t readily have. That’s fine to leave that one in your box. By the end of each morning, the only emails that should remain in your inbox are those that still require action. Everything else should be deleted (or filed.) And as soon as possible, respond to the remaining emails so those to can be deleted (or filed.)
There is nothing so freeing in the morning after I’ve seen my inbox drop from hundreds to just a handful of emails. There is a nice feeling of accomplishment knowing that a big chunk of my daily tasks have been completed.