It's the dreaded feeling of turning on your smartphone or logging in to your work computer, and seeing the inevitable: the full inbox. Emails from colleagues who need answers now, supervisors who need answers yesterday, assorted advertisements, spam, and your friend's fishing trip photos.

What do you do with this onslaught of incoming email so that it's not overwhelming? Try these nine steps to get your inbox organized and keep it that way:

1. Organizing is a daily task.

Make it part of your routine, like lunch, a coffee break, daily sales meeting or revenue report. It's something you schedule, not something you might squeeze in at the last minute.

2. Commit to a filing system that is flexible.

Your online filing system consists of folders you create within your email system. Your hard-copy filing system consists of hanging files in a metal or wood cabinet. Whatever you choose, it should be a system capable of growing with your needs.

3. Keep those files clean and tidy.

Schedule a weekly or monthly review of those files; eliminate those that are no longer useful. Move paperwork from one file to another and consolidate files.

4. Use the FAST system.

Once you read it, decide whether to File it, Assign it to someone, Store (or Scan) for future reference, or Trash it.

5. Set your spam filter.

If your paperwork arrives by email, set your spam or junk email filter to remove unsolicited and mass emails from advertisers, marketers, and other time-wasters.

6. Friends don't let friends send anything to work email addresses.

As much as seeing your friend's latest cute baby pictures means to you, don't give her your work email. Doing so links her email with yours, and that's when your inbox fills with unwanted diaper coupons and breastfeeding articles.

7. Don't give out your work email address.

Use caution when posting a professional profile. If your LinkedIn profile is public, everything on it (including your work email) is public. It's good for your business contacts to find you, bad for social-media bottom feeders looking for random connections to boost their profile.

8. Don't "panic-check" your inbox.

It's counterproductive to check your inbox every five minutes. Set a timer on your email or use a clock to remind you to check every 30 minutes. This keeps the incoming work in order while getting other tasks completed.

9. Deal with your inbox first thing and last thing of the day.

Empty your inbox as your first order of business and your last task of the day. It clears the path for the day's activities, helps prepare a to-do list for tomorrow and provides a sense of accomplishment at both ends of the day.

Published on: Aug 25, 2017
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