Confession – a month of being disorganised with email....

Whether it be a family member, friend, workplace colleague or boss etc., we’ve all encountered someone who is disorganised in our life at some stage. If their level of disorganisation doesn’t affect us then we might go as far as having an opinion on how they could be better off by being organised, but for the most part we really don’t care and just let it pass. However, if their disorganisation slows us down or causes us to wait then the typical feeling is one of frustration.

Therefore, it makes sense that if we get annoyed by others being disorganised then we should be organised ourselves. For instance, the numerous research I’ve found on how long we spend each work week looking for information varies from 11.5% to 30%. In other words, a lot!!! Now we don’t store and categorise all of this information ourselves but we do with a reasonable amount of it.

With regards to our email I think one of the first efficiency decisions we need to make with regards to our Working Rhythm is how will we store and retrieve information. The options are whether we have some sort of folder structure or just keep everything in the inbox.

Personally I’m a fan of simple subject matter filing (like items together). Not too many folders as I don’t want it to be too difficult and time consuming to be able to manage it. But something that enables me to have what is essentially an empty inbox each day. The basic idea is to not be focussed on the inbox with outstanding actions scheduled and prioritised by date as either calendar or task items.

I don’t like filing emails by month ie. Jan, Feb etc. However, I realise some people even prefer to not file emails at all, but that approach just doesn’t work for me as I find the inbox too busy and immediately feel somewhat overwhelmed by the volume of emails.

Now I usually have my email management sorted, but….. I have a confession to make. With one month’s annual leave which included an overseas trip, other scheduled family, activities and then work, December and January have been somewhat fragmented for me and I didn’t get completely on top of my email when I returned to work. Whilst I can logically think of reasons why this occurred, in reality they’re just an excuse.

So what happened?

I have to say I felt my productivity dipped. Why? Well I flagged so many emails for follow-up but didn’t do anything with them and then found myself bouncing between tasks, taking longer to find information and then feeling uptight because I didn’t make as much progress as I expected or needed to.

What did I do to get back on track?

Because I had a basic structure in place it only took me around an hour to completely get myself sorted and organised. The outcome is that’s it’s taken my mind off the inbox and given me a greater sense of control (less frustration).

If this blog sounds like you then I suggest you invest the time to fix your email management. Even if you have never had your emails organised or if you once did, found it worked but for some reason or another no longer do so. Providing a keep it simple approach is applied, then I believe the benefits far outweigh the investment in time taken to define, implement and manage daily as part of your Working Rhythm.

There is a silver lining to the consulting work I do because having spent a short time in what was an “unproductive zone” for me has been good refresh my memory as to how I used to work and what it must feel like for many workers every day. However, the overriding lesson I’ve learnt is to practice what I preach because it simply just works!!!