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Sorting out emails – workload

January 25, 2016

At the end of the Christmas holidays, there was a ‘slow twitter chat’ which lasted 5 days and was talking about well being. I didn’t really get involved at the time but thought it might be an idea to try and change something that would make a difference to me using my time more effectively. To that end, I show you this:

email sorting pic2

Hopefully you’ll notice that that’s one very empty Inbox.

Now, I’m aware this isn’t rocket science but I do feel a bit like I’m always drowning in emails and, in case you’re wondering, this is what it looked like before I started tidying:

Email sorting

That was 808 in the four months from Sept to Dec and doesn’t include any I’d filed or deleted. To give even more context, here are the numbers for emails I got from January through to June of 2015. Bear in mind that some months have half terms of course.

emails per month

The main tool I’ve gone for in tidying up my email approach is in those three files at the top:

  • To do important – things I need to do very soon ie roughly within a week
  • To do some point – things I need/want to do but are less urgent
  • 2015 file – things I want to keep or may need to refer to but don’t need cluttering up my inbox

I’ve always tried to use folders but got stuck with things that I didn’t really have a neat category for. I’ve basically gone for a “shove it in a drawer and see if I need it again” approach with those sort of things and that’s the point of the 2015 file (which is now called 2015 – 2016 file). It’s easy to forget how quickly you can search for emails so worrying too much about clear filing isn’t that necessary.

One key point is to be ruthless. Once you’ve read an email you either:

  1. Do something about it right away if it’s simple to deal with,
  2. Put it into To do: Important or Sometime
  3. Put in the ‘general’ file
  4. Delete it

As long as you reasonably frequently check your to do folders, everything’s much more manageable.

Anyway, this is working for me so far and it does seem to be much more manageable. I have a pretty short list of things that need doing (meaning I feel less overwhelmed) and anything else is easily searchable when necessary. You might like to try it yourself.

I’d also like to hear any other techniques you use for dealing with email.


From → Teaching

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