Merlin Mann of 43 Folders clued me in to this recent post by 14 year old New Zealand blogger Glenn Wolsey. Dealing with e-mail is becoming more and more difficult over time, and it is probably going to get worse rather than better. Even excluding spam (of which I get at least 50 a day), sorting, categorizing, and responding to e-mail is taking up more and more of a person’s working day. How can we deal with this mess?
Glenn’s first tip is really great: stop checking your mail every minute or two. I get into this habit in front of the computer. I have my web mail program open in a Firefox tab and am constantly checking my mail. Resist the urge to stop what you are working on and answer each incoming e-mail. Instead, set aside a little time every hour or two to answer and deal with incoming e-mails. It is similar to using the phone.
Glenn writes about using a three folder system for organizing e-mail: Follow-Up, Interesting & To Do. I have always had a hard time organizing my e-mails this way. I either delete the trash, immediately respond, or make a note in my to do list to respond later. If I read an e-mail and just make a mental note to respond later I almost always lose track of the e-mail.
Merlin Mann has covered similar organizational methods on his very useful blog. Visit his Inbox Zero series of posts–you’ll be sure to get some new ideas.