When I asked my business colleagues to contribute to a Time Management Tips Collection, I knew they were a generous lot.  But even my expectations were exceeded.  A great big thank you to all who’ve participated. 🙂

Today’s tips come from Brenda Thomson from NetworkingWorld.  She says –

My favourite time management tip is to do with managing those plaguey emails, something which used to consume hours of my time every week and seemed to be a never-ending job every day when I switched on my computer.  So here is how I do it:

Rule 1 – turn off all the automatic downloads and “you’ve got mail” notifications – they are just a distraction

Rule 2 – open the auto-preview and a large reading pane so that you can see most of the email without opening it (you can find those in view on Outlook)

Rule 3 – keep your Outlook sorted in FLAG order

Rule 4 – allocate 3 time slots to deal with emails – one in the morning and one in the evening – I personally allocate 30 minutes to each slot – sometimes the evening slot can drag out a bit, NEVER the morning.  Yes I know that’s only two!  Plus I have a two hour slot once a week of managing backlog – more on that later.  NO Interruptions!  So what do I do in my 3 time slots?

The morning time slot is all about quick decision and short actions:

If it looks like SPAM, delete it (that’s where the open auto-preview and large reading pane come in handy)

If the email can be dealt with in less than 60 seconds, just do it, don’t think about it.

If it would be best dealt with by a phone call, give it a yellow flag and leave it for the next scheduled telephone call time (Yes I use a default diary so there is a scheduled telephone call time every day).

If it must be dealt with urgently but won’t fit in the 60 second rule, give it a red flag and leave it.

if it isn’t urgent and won’t fit in the 60 second rule, give it a blue flag and leave it.

If it relates to an appointment, attach it to the appointment in my diary and file it.

If I have done my bit but am awaiting a response from someone else, out of my control, give it a green flag and leave it.

If it looks interesting but doesn’t require a response, give it a purple flag and leave it – DON’T read it!

Because no email takes more than 60 seconds to action and most take a lot less I can often go back and do some of the red emails on the spot.  But the Golden Rule for the morning is STOP at the end of 30 minutes.

The evening time slot is the same as the morning but this time I keep working until all of the red emails are dealt with.  The golden rule is NEVER handle a red email more than once – just do it!  If I have time to spare in the 30 minutes then I start on the Blue emails.

So – I hear you ask – what happens to the rest of the blue, and all the green and purple emails?  (I’m guessing you picked up that the yellow ones are handled every day in phone call time!)

That is what the weekly 2-hour slot is for.  Once a week I sort all the emails into date received order, oldest to most recent, and I deal with them.  No rehandling and NO interruptions.  It is amazing how many you can get through and how many of them can be filed or deleted without a second thought.

Over-riding Golden Rule – no email is handled more than twice (hopefully only once)!

And yes isn’t it great – I just had time to answer this email from my friend Angela the Angel of Creating Order from Chaos in my 2 hour time slot this week and my Outlook is EMPTY!  (Well almost – does anyone have any tips on how to overcome procrastination?  After all, nobody’s perfect.)

Well thanks Brenda!  These tips must be working for you, I know your business is booming – I’m one of your raving fans.  And by the way, flattery will get you everywhere. 🙂

  1. Chris Owen 16 years ago

    So glad you asked for tips Angela
    Brenda’s is excellent. When I have a bit more time i’m going to settle down and review it carefully and see if it fits me without any adapting or how I can use these great techniques to bring my email management under control!
    Thanks Brenda and Angela And I’m a raving fan of both of you!!

  2. […] See the rest here: Time Management Tips, part 2 « Organised Thoughts […]

  3. Paul 16 years ago

    I like what you say but for my money a well organised and configured tasks folder beats flags every time. See my posts on http://pauldrasmussen.blogspot.com/

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