Monday, November 01, 2004

The Overwhelming Untamed Inbox!

I've been having a problem lately... and it's really messing with my overall productivity. It's my Inbox - my insanely overwhelming untamed Inbox!

So I was talking with a friend today - Joshua Zuchter - and we worked through it together until we came up with a good solid solution. Not just a "help me get through the current chaos" solution, but one that will work for me long term.

I have to say, Joshua is amazing. Every time that we talk, I end up making impressive progress on a project or walk away with the perfect fix to a problem that I am having. It always makes my day to hear from him!

The main problem is that I cannot keep up with the volume of email coming in. For example, right now I have 767 emails in my Inbox. These have already been filtered, so there is no junk or spam in there... all correspondence that requires my attention. I have taken all of the steps to stop spam, organize messages and filter incoming email - and I *still* sit here completely overwhelmed!

On a good day, I can generally get through about 150 messages. Most of these require some type of action on my part - update a clients website, answer a question, check out a new resource or opportunity, etc. So getting through 100+ is an accomplishment. However, when I go to sleep and then come back the next morning... there are almost 100 new messages there!

It's a neverending cycle, and I just cannot seem to get on top of it.

In addition to the 767 emails I have right now, there are almost 250 in a folder I have named "Urgent - Do Now" and 749 emails in a file that are all emails from 2003 that I just never got to. I pretty much had to write them off and move on, but I did save them in the case that I ever needed to refer back to them.

Ouch, right?

So here I sit with my task list for the week - four things that I need to accomplish. Three of them are updates for clients, the 4th is to catch up on my email. I could ignore my email and get the other three tasks completed - but that doesnt exactly work. Most of the information I need for those three projects is IN my Inbox. Besides, I cant just ignore time sensitive messages, obviously.

So I go to my Inbox to get the information or content that I need, and end up getting overwhelmed all over again. It's really getting to me!

Like I said, I came up with a solution - thanks to Joshua and our talk today. What I am going to do is go through ALL of my emails and file them into one of three folders. The names of these folders are:


Things that need to be done NOW go into the Urgent folder. Things that need to be done as soon as possible (within the next week) go into the ASAP folder. And things that arent urgent or that can wait... they go into the Anytime folder.

That's the plan - so my goal is to first organize all of it. Then, when I come into my office and sit down, I will tackle the Urgent messages first - and then move on to ASAP. I think this will work really well for me!

Joshua's last tip for me before we got off the phone was: "Don't stop until you're finished. Organize ALL of the emails into your three folders - and then you can begin working on them." Good advice, Joshua - and thanks!

I'm off to organize my Inbox ;)