Posted by: magnussonllc | January 21, 2010

Deleting Digital Chaos

An effective e-mail system is easy to establish and maintain — as long as you don’t make it too complicated. By following some simple rules you can easily clean up the information inflow.

 1.  Reserve Your In-Box for Action Items 

The email in-box should only contain e-mails that need some sort of action or response, whether a quick reply, further investigation, or some other procedure. This becomes your “action list.” All other e-mails should be deleted or filed to e-mail file folders. Keep your in-box cleared of messages that have already received a response.

2.  Set Up E-mail File Folders

You can create as many sub-folders within your inbox as you wish. Each browser is a little different, so refer to your help menu for specific instructions. Set up individual folders for people with whom you communicate often. Create additional folders relating to specific projects, events and companies, and a holding file for pending e-mail that you plan to keep for a very brief time. Last, but not least, create a folder named “Important” for high priority items. These storage folders should be temporary resting places only. At some point, they will need to be purged and deleted from the system.

3. Put Complete Information in the Subject Line

Make sure to enter complete information in the subject line when sending e-mails. Words like “update,” “hello,” and “information” are very ambiguous and make quick filing difficult for you and the recipient. Put as much information as possible in the subject line to clarify the message. This will also assist in locating the e-mail later on. If you receive email without subjective lines that you want to keep, save them with a new line to your liking.  

4. Ongoing E-mail Management

Those who receive fifty or more e-mails daily should allot about two hours a day to review and file. Try to download and respond to e-mail no more than twice daily. Schedule this time on your calendar and communicate the time slot to others. Constantly reading and responding to e-mail is disruptive and can sabotage your day. Avoid printing e-mail and remember to delete regularly.

5. Electronic File Management 

The same basic logic when organizing paper tray systems should be applied to computer files and file folders. Think of the main folder as the “file drawer” — clients, marketing, associations, personal — then create subfolders from there.   Computer files can be categorized into “action,” “reference” and “archive.” Remember…create files in your computer to match the paper filing system in your office. You can create file folders (or the equivalent) within any Internet browser or word processing program, and on any platform. Follow the instructions in your help menu or manual.  Do not get carried away and create too many levels (subfolders). In general, you should not build deeper than three subfolder levels. Also, try to limit the number of documents you keep in each folder. One rule of thumb is to create a new folder every time you accumulate more than 20 files. The fewer files you have in a folder, the faster a file can be found. And, as with all else in managing your filing system, remember to periodically review, purge, and refine.  

 Put the power back where it belongs — in your hands. Computers can’t organize you . . . but you can organize what you need and want from computers. Eliminate digital clutter


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