Updated: Feb 1
So what do you do when you are out on vacation or unexpectedly out of the office, and you come back to 500 unread emails? Yikes! We have all been there, the momentary panic you feel, the overwhelming concern of never getting caught up, and wondering how in the world you will get all this work done. Then comes this thought "I am never going on vacation again! I am drowning in emails; it is going to take me forever to get caught up!".
As Administrative Professionals, we have a unique challenge to our profession. Not only are we digging through emails and invitations requesting our own time, but we are digging through hundreds of emails and meeting invitations and requests for our executive's time. So, how do you get through the emails and invitations without getting further behind?
Here is how I disconnect and come back, hitting the ground running.
View by Type Batching together like tasks is a well-known productivity tip. Utilizing this tip in my inbox allows me to quickly delete or handle the ones that need the least amount of attention so I can focus on the critical requests. Message Meeting Request Meeting Cancellations Meeting Acceptance Meeting Decline Etc.
Clean Up Folder Next, I view my messages and use the Clean Up Folder function. This is one of my favorite tools to use in the command ribbon. We all know how quickly your inbox can grow when there are several replies to an email. Using this command removes redundant messages from the folder and keeps the latest one with all of the responses in the thread. Getting rid of an extra 50 to 100 emails that you do not have to triage is a gift when you are working through your inbox after a holiday!
Now, that I have quickly taken care of the meeting invitations and redundant messages, I am finally ready to tackle all of my actual emails.
View by Category Triaging email by action might not be your norm, but I promise you that it will make a significant impact on how quickly you get through your emails and get to your actions. When I am triaging my email, I follow the "One Touch - 2 Minute Rule". If an email can be handled quickly and I can get it done in 2 minutes, then I complete the action right then. If not, then I categorize the email by action to complete after I have finished triaging all of my email messages.
For example, if someone is requesting time and it is not just a quick ask, then I categorize it as a "Schedule Meeting." If it is an urgent email that requires a thoughtful reply or my immediate attention, then I categorize it as "Urgent." Once I am finished triaging my emails, then I schedule my day based on what I need to accomplish.
Viewing my inbox by category allows me to see all of the emails that I have not triaged and allows me to either take care of them quickly or categorize them for action. Once I classify a message, it moves it out of the "None" view and moves it to the category that I have selected. This process allows me only to see the messages that I need to triage.
I use this same process to triage my email each morning, but this process makes all the difference when I need to get through a lot of emails quickly. You might have noticed a theme here - batching like actions together to get through them quickly and efficiently.
These tools help me get through my post-vacation overload in record time. I would love to hear how you get through your inbox overload!