In my Each Day Empty eBook, I describe how to quickly empty your inbox reliably day after day. But after an extended holiday, you may need some extra help to tackle your inbox. My own Outlook downloaded 3,200 emails when I returned – was I ever glad I already knew some of the following tips! Now they’re yours, too!
- Learn how to sort and group e-mails in your mail reader. In Outlook you can use the View | Arrange By item in the main menu.
- Sort all mails in your inbox by Subject. A lot of the spam that gets through your spam filter will be grouped together now. You can quickly remove all mail starting with Cyrillic symbols (unless you happen to live in Russia) and any spam that has the same subject repeated in the Subject box can easily be spotted.
- Next, sort all of your mails by the To field. This may not be relevant to everyone, but I still get e-mails (especially spam) that was sent to an e-mail address other than my own. Sorting this way helps remove these messages easily.
- Now sort the remaining e-mails by From and Date. This way you group all mail that came from each specific sender, in the order they were sent. Your rate of speed may vary while doing this, but I tend to scan quickly through all mail, starting with the oldest ones. But I don’t reply to any of the mails at this stage because this way I can read up on the developments, better understand my customers and employees, and keep myself from replying to something which has changed or been revoked in a more recent e-mail.
- After taking these steps, I’m up-to-date again. I’m aware of current issues, I know whether there are serious problems that need my attention, and I know which e-mails I’m going to want to answer first.
Even before I go on vacation, I think about my first days back in the office. In my out-of-office autoreply, I mention the date I think I will be answering e-mails again – and make that date several days after I return from vacation. This way, I don’t have to tackle e-mails while in an ‘urgent’ catch-up mood and I can continue to feel rested and relaxed from the vacation I’ve just enjoyed.
Fortunately, as soon as I’m up-to-date again, it’s a breeze to keep my inbox empty each day for the rest of the year.