Posts tagged email management
Three Sentences - another way to discipline yourself (and your email habits)

Three Sentences is based on the premise to reply to email as it were SMS and keep it short - three sentences is the maximum. I try to use this for all my emails - not just replies. - A Disciplined Way To Deal With Email:

The Problem E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it. The Solution Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.


How to write very efficient email replies

I am still working on my next book on how to manage the constant overload of information in todays business world - specifically email. 

Trying to manage my Inbox and living by the Zero Inbox method I noticed something interesting. If you write email from your Smartphone people will not mind typos, short answers and informalities. Then why do I need to worry about these things when I am working on my Laptop?

I decided to not waste any more time with these formalities by pretending to be always on my Smartphone answering emails from there. How do i do that? I just use the same Signature on my Laptop as I do on my Smartphone “Send from my iPhone”. The result is that I spend less time answering emails and people are not annoyed by my short and sometimes informal answers.

I get more work done, answer emails faster - it’s a Win-Win situation. Try it for yourself.

More about “How to deal with email” here:




From my upcoming book–the Touch Once, Zero Inbox

How to deal with external email? 

Email coming from outside your organization is a tough topic and the way you handle it obviously depends on your role. If you are in sales or customer service these messages are of utmost importance to you (when talking about external emails I do not mean Junk / Spam emails but legitimate emails from business partners), if you are working in a more internal role these messages can distract you a great deal from your actual job. 

It doesn’t matter though for the purpose of how to handle these messages. I have a simple rule defined, that moves all messages that are coming from external sources into a folder. Depending on your job role you can then decide if this is the first folder to open in the morning or something you look at once a week to see if there is anything in there that needs your attention. 

In my case I check this folder usually at the end of the week, act on a couple of the messages and delete the rest. 90% of these emails are from companies I have no actual business relationship with – they just got my email address and try to advertise to me or introduce their company.If you leave these emails in your regular inbox they will distract you from what is really important and by moving them away I reduce the amount of emails that focus on by at least 15% to 20%.

Sure, these numbers differ depending on your outside visibility and your job role, but every email that you move away and only have to pay limited attention to frees critical time for doing “real” work. By collecting all these emails in one folder you will realize that you go through them much faster and more effective than ever before.

Putting your email into an elaborate filing system is one of the biggest wastes of your time.

This is a behaviour from the past that is outdated and unnecessary. All email applications these days support advanced search capabilities. If you can remember what an email was about or who sent it, you have enough information to find it quickly.

I do have some folders that I use for filing. Some of these are caused by technical shortcomings of the email system and the devices that I am using or by the way that I conditioned myself to work.

These will not be the same for you and I encourage you to start without any filing system and only start using folders if there is a real need based on your way of working. Never create a folder just because you want to organize mails based on topic, project, sender etc.

  • I collect all emails regarding personnel in a folder which I exempt from my regular deletion intervals (using this folder as my archive).
  • I also have a folder for emails that I want to turn into a calendar entry. I only use this when working on my iPhone or iPad as working with advanced calendar functions on these devices is not possible yet.
  • I have a Note and To-do folder which I use to send myself notes and to-dos items when I am out of the office. I have tried Note and Task Apps on my mobile devices but realized that I am most effective by just sending myself short reminders as emails (I have rules setup on my account that will move these automatically in the “Notes” and “To-do” folder, so I never see these in my Inbox).

The key is to use these folders only to make your life easier, not to waste time for artificial filing just because we always filed everything that crossed our desk.

I said before that based on the “Touch Once” rule you should basically: Open, read, act, delete!

Delete for me means, I put this into a folder called “Done”. To make this easy I have created a “QuickStep” in Microsoft Outlook which moves the email to the “Done” folder and marks it as read. The Done folder I keep for 13 month. Every year in January I delete anything that is older than the year before last (January 2013 I will delete everything from the “Done” folder that is older than December 2011).

As explained I use a folder for anything regarding Personnel, which I like to keep for an unlimited amount of time, everything else is basically in the “Done” folder and gets deleted.

To be clear on this, of course many times I directly delete emails. I only move emails to “Done” if I think they are worth keeping for a limited period of time. If I really need any of that information I can rest assured that “Search” will find it.

Do not keep any email longer than 12 month (or a shorter period of time if possible for you). You won’t need it! If anyone confronts you with the fact that he or she had written something in an email a couple of month ago, just assume that he or she is right. Checking by yourself, possibly proving the statement as “Right” or “Wrong” does not help your company or yourself.

You save a lot of time by just saying “You are right! You did write that 6 month ago. The question remains – what should we do now?” – this works every single time, saves you a lot of effort and actually creates positive action.