Lean for mail?


If you’re like me one area most people can benefit from a bit of ‘lean in your life’ is your email box.

We seem to have have hundreds of emails hitting us every week even day resulting in spending hours trying to filter through them all. All this email clutter sat in the inbox then makes trying to find that note someone sent last week a nit are without having to resort to advanced searches.

Someone once said to me.

“Do you leave the post behind your front door to pile up on the floor. Then occasionally you open a few letters scan through, put them back into the envelope and leave on the floor. No? Then why do we do the same with our email?”

Many email providers, such as google in my case, offer easy solutions to ‘take control’ of your email.

This is where the lean bit comes in. I mentioned in an earlier blog about the 5S process used to achieve workplace organisation. Well this is where 5S can be applied to your personal email to achieve the same.

1. Sort – filter through the email

This is where you start to group and categorise your email. Fortunately the google spam filters are pretty good these days so most of this gets filtered out before it hits my inbox. However if you are plagued with spam, then it may be worth investigating what spam filters are available from your ISP or email provider. Next is the task of going through all the email sat in your inbox.

You tend to find a lot of people use their inbox as a dumping ground for everything from newsgroup updates, offers, newsletters, updates from social media sites and the list goes on. Much of this doesn’t even get read and ends up being deleting, but this all takes time, time that could be spent better than deleting emails and trying to find the ones that are really important to you!

In my case the two main reasons for the email overload is
• Subscribing to too many newsletters, forums etc
• Leaving emails un-actioned in the inbox

As you work through the email, start to remove or delete anything not needed. If the newsletter, forum or newsgroup isn’t adding value then remove yourself from the mailing list. Next turn off any unnecessary social media updates, do you really need to be notified if someone retweeted you? If any of your e-coupons, adds or offer emails haven’t been used for the last month then remove yourself from the mailing list.

2. Set in order – organise the email

Following the ‘cull’ of unnecessary email you’ll be left with only the important emails and an idea of the types of email in your inbox. Now you can start to set out a folder structure to organise the remaining emails. This process can easily be automated using rules or filters which automatically file email into relevant folders to prevent it building up again and make working on the emails much easier.

Start to think about the categories of emails that you want to keep; personal, work, events etc. This will help you to apply a logical filing system for email to prevent them just sitting in the inbox. This will help to store relevant email together making searching, filing and action much easier in the future.

3. Standardise – apply the structured folders / labels to the email

I recommend the following structure:

• Personal : anything from friends and family
• Forums : groups and forums subscribed to like LinkedIn
• Events : invites or reminders of up and coming events or occasions
• Marketing : marketing and coupons subscribed to
• Newsletters : any specific interests, topics, blogs subscribed to
• Research : anything from work related to brainstorming of new ideas or papers to reviewed
• Reminders : those emails you send yourself as a prompt or from social media site with special occasions

4. Sweep or shine – filing of email into folders / labels

Once you have a structure in place and the unwanted emails are gone next you need to make sure you keep to the standard.

By either creating rules or filters you can automatically file email into the relevant folders based upon key words, the sender address and so on. Whether you do this manually or automatically you’ll be able clear out the inbox and keep it that way!

5. Sustain – review and improve the system

If you automate the process you’ll pick out those emails falling into exception to then delete or create new filters or rules. By regularly checking on the process of filing and emails received you’ll be able to keep on top and making any changes to improve the process.

Hopefully these simple 5 steps will help you to ‘take control’ of your email!


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