Fast Company's Weekly Work Smart Column

In February a tweet from Fast Company magazine linking to one of their articles caught my eye, Work Smart: Conquering Your Email Inbox by Gina Trapani. Anything that promises to help me conquer the barrage of email is worth a moment to read I figured. The system seemed simple too, create three folders in your email inbox: “To-do, Reference, and Wait.” Clear your email box EVERY time you go into it by putting everything you can’t delete into one of those three folders.

Okay, this new system is working like a charm. I have modified it slightly by creating two sets of three folders, one set of three for my job and one for my personal email. But each time I check either inbox, I deal with a bunch of the email and everything else goes into one of the three folders. Then when I have say 10 minutes before a meeting, I can go to my To Do folder and plow through additional emails that need replies.

The other unexpected benefit is that it has made me more disciplined about only checking email at regular intervals in the day – rather than every 5 minutes. If I know I don’t have time – or will – to empty the box, then I don’t check. I wait until I do.

If your email inbox is so full you cringe when you open it, or if you and your colleagues/friends compete to see who has the most messages in their inbox, try this out. Let me know if it works, or if you have other systems that do!

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2 Responses to An Email Management System that Works!

  1. Hi Kristin,

    Thanks for sharing this. I love simple systems that work. I loved Gmail when I got it b/c I never have to delete anything – can just archive, search, etc. But my “star” to deal with later system rapidly got out of control. I’ll try your suggestion instead.

  2. chris brandow says:

    this relies heavily on the “gtd” method of next action, reference and waiting-for. enforcing the rule that at one point in the day all of the email has been processed works wonders, when it is enforced…