The new year has meant a renewed sense of focus for both Rebecca and myself, we’re getting our heads together today to talk next steps for Dream. Find. Do too.
If you pop by Rebecca’s blog Florence Finds you will no doubt have been swept up and motivated to join in with her #JanuaryJoy series, bringing a little bit of love to what can be a rather blue month.
I’ve been totally stripping things back over at Pocketful of Dreams. As my events business demands more and more of my time, I’ve had to make some tough decisions about exactly what I can fit into those precious 24-hours. My decision to refocus the blog was difficult but such a sense of relief. I no longer feel responsible to sponsors and with a more relaxed schedule can blog what I want, when I want. It’s this sense of creative freedom I’ve yearned for and I know deep down my content will be much better for it.
I’ve also been writing about getting organised, pop over and read why here. I have a few tried and tested methods of staying on top of things and wanted to share one of the big ones here with you today: The Inbox.
It’s fair to say 2012 was the year I let things slip in terms of my usual military organisation, things got a little sloppy and oftentimes felt chaotic. 2013 is the year I’m taking control again and the first thing I HAD to tackle was my inbox. I soooo wish I had taken a screenshot of it before I started the epic clearout, I have 6 email accounts for my various businesses / interests, and there were around 18,000 UNREAD emails with another 12,000 read emails sat in my inbox, some actioned, some not. There was no system, no control and this is no good for anyone.
I mainly get three types of email:
- They’re just for reading and don’t need a response
- I need to reply or forward
- I need to consider more carefully and take action outside of just sending an email
It’s important for me to have a system to ensure I take action on those that need it, and thing’s I’ve already read don’t end up being re-read over and over.
So over the Christmas period my inbox was purged and re-ordered and I now follow these simple steps to keep on top of it:
1. Create Folders
I use Mac Mail and in this system they are called Mailboxes. I create main folders for each of my projects or interests, with sub-folders within them for the mini-projects or tasks they refer to. Categorising my emails this way helps me manage and organise all my emails and quickly find them again when I need to refer back.
2. Have a system
Mine is this: I check emails periodically and as I do I take one of the following actions
- Delete: those time-drain, not relevant emails
- Forward: I do it right away
- Keep: I’ve read it and just need it for reference
- Quick reply: I do it there and then
Anything that didn’t get deleted from this list then gets moved to it’s appropriate folder for future reference.
Those that require more action than a simple email response remain in my inbox until I have the proper time to deal with them. This reminds me I have to do something with them and acts as a to-do list without me having to make a new one every day. Then once sorted they get moved to a folder.
Sometimes it doesn’t happen as smoothly as this so I schedule time in every few days to sit and manage the inbox until I can get it to the point of actioned.
3. Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe
I cannot stress this enough, we get thousands of junk emails through and simply reading the subject lines alone to work out that they are junk is a time-drain, then deleting etc. It had to stop. And I’m sure you’ve all done it, subscribed to get access to some key information or offer relevant to you at the time but not so much in the long-run. I went through all of these newsletters and emails I receive and I unsubscribed from them all. It took me hours but as I had already set time aside to tackle this task it was worth it.
Anything that comes through now that’s not relevant to me I simply press the JUNK button and it’s shunned forever more. In future if you do need to subscribe to gain access, use a different email address.Just set-up one of the free services and use that instead, you never even need to check it.
4. Use Filters
Some emails that come in I know I don’t want to waste time reading there and then, these are the ones that could be an interesting news service I’ve subscribed to that I want to catch up with say once a month. I set filters (or rules) that automatically moves them to the right folder the second they come in. That way I don’t get distracted by them landing in my inbox (procrastination is a killer!) but I still have them somewhere safe to read when I have got the time.
5. Use Templates and Auto-Responders
If you know you are going to be busy as hell for a few weeks then plan ahead and set-up an auto responder that let’s people know you have their email and that you’re working on a project / away from the office etc and will reply by X date. This gives you a little breathing space and prevents people thinking you’re an ignorant so and so.
I also use templates for those multiple requests I get (but obviously personalise them). For example I get asked a lot for work experience at my events company. I have a standard response that gives the emailer key information and points them in the right direction.
Similarly I have standard packs of information ready to send people when they enquire about services and when I used to take blog sponsorship. It makes life much easier once you have a system for responding.
6. Make your subject lines matter
This is an important one for keeping things categorised, there’s nothing worse than working on a project that’s had around 500 emails exchanged and you’re desperately trying to find the one that jas that key piece of info in it. I TRY to make sure my subject lines help with this, for example if I am working on a client project, their name will go in the subject line, followed by what that email refers to. So it could be Client X – Concept Design, Client X – Project timeline v1, Client X – Project Timeline v2. You get my drift, it doesn’t always work but can save you trawling through 400 Client X emails looking for one little nugget of info.
Hope the tips help. Do let us know what you’ve been doing to ease yourself into 2013 and if you have any time-saving tips of your own just hit up that comments box below. You can also join in with #ProjectOrganise as I will be blogging, tweeting and instagramming about my progress over the course of 2013. Just use the hashtag #ProjectOrganise and share your own tips.