During the month of April on the Webs blog, we’re going to be exploring tools and tips to help small business owners manage their limited time efficiently. Today’s article comes from our very own Head of Marketing, Rochelle Sanchirico, who is passionate (some might say fanatical) about the importance of inbox organization. Take it away, Rochelle!
I am one of those people who can’t focus if a room is messy–everything must be in its place before I can move on to a new project. The same goes for my email inbox–if it’s a chaotic mess, I simply feel out of sorts and can’t be productive. In order to keep my sanity, I’ve developed a couple of tricks over the past several years that keeps my email organization in tip-top shape and helps me make good progress in other important areas of my life and job. Hopefully one or more will get you closer to pure inbox Zen:
1. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
I’m maniacal about my folder structure, and when I start a new job or role one of the first things I do is set up a skeleton folder structure that maps to the things I’ll be doing every day. For me, it makes the most sense to organize by major areas of responsibility and then build more detailed subfolders under that, adding subfolders as they’re needed.
Since I’m the Head of Marketing, my “Marketing” folder has the most subfolders–I have a few subfolders like “Acquisition” and “Design” and then subfolders under those (“SEM”, “SEO” and “Multivariate testing” all fall below the “Acquisition” subfolder). Not only do these folders and subfolders give me a place to put emails, it also makes it much easier to find an old communication when it’s needed.
2. Active filing
I have a strict rule about what is allowed to take up precious space in my inbox: it is only comprised of items that still require work from me. One colleague used to joke that I had always sent him a very complete response to every email before he had pushed the “sent” button on his original communication. Being responsive is a thing with me.
A little bit of bragging time – the only message in my inbox right now is a request from our resident blogger Sarah to write this guest blog post about my crazy passion for email organization:
I try to get into the office before my team in the morning so I can file or address everything that’s come in overnight. As soon as I’ve answered questions, completed the desired analysis, or scheduled a meeting–whatever the email references–it immediately gets filed into the appropriate folder. By following this process, my inbox is my to-do list. And I’ll admit that if it’s a message that requires a lot of consideration or has lots of dependencies, it may sit in my inbox for a few days. But I never forget about it since it’s in there, staring me in the face every day, and my inbox is always at a manageable level.
3. Work with your program
I’ll admit that I’m most efficient with Microsoft Outlook–it’s the system I’ve used in every job I’ve ever had, so we have a deep and meaningful 15 year relationship (with the requisite ups and downs). But I do employ the same general techniques in my personal email management, and I have both Hotmail (mostly transactional at this point) and Gmail accounts. My Hotmail account has a similar folder structure to my work Outlook account, just centered around personal topics (“Paid bills”, “Adele” (my daughter), and “Tax stuff”). And I have to admit that I am digging the new more “Outlook-y” Hotmail.
As many of you know, Gmail is a different beast. Gmail’s structure and layout begs you to search vs. file, and I’ve tried to go with it. The search function has hardly ever let me down, but if I was going to use Gmail for work matters more often I would probably break the Google recommendations and create a nice, clean file structure that would be *really* powerful in conjunction with their search function.
4. Make your calendar your ally.
Many email programs have associated calendar programs, and I use mine to within an inch of its life. I do have a lot of meetings with my team, other colleagues, and partners, but I also schedule work for myself on my calendar. If I’ve been putting off responding to a particularly challenging request or need to really think about a strategic issue, I’ll block off time on my calendar. And if that time gets usurped by other more pressing issues, I move it to another block the next day. That way I don’t forget anything that really needs to get done.
There you have it–my email manifesto in one neat (and hopefully well-organized) blog post. If you have any organization advice of your own please share it on the Webs Facebook page!
About the Author: Rochelle Sanchirico is Head of Marketing at Webs, where she oversees all marketing, analytics, and customer support operations.