So now that you have deleted the junk and filed the information only emails, its time to tackle the emails that require action. Yes, this part takes a little more time, but the longer you put it off the more likely you are to miss important deadlines or let great opportunities slip through the cracks. And, if you use a systematic approach you can knock out this step without too much pain.
First, lets separate emails that require action into three categories:
- Emails that require no research or schedule coordination to reply
- Emails that require schedule coordination to reply
- Emails that require research or some other sort of task on your part.
Category 1 is easy enough to address – these emails you should just answer as you go and usually aren’t the ones clogging up your Inbox anyway. Category 2 can be easy too if you use the right tools. Here are a couple of hints for dealing with meeting request emails:
- Keep another instance of Outlook open with the Calendar folder selected so that you can easily toggle to it and see your calendar quickly. How?
- If the email is actually a Meeting Request (with calendar icon), you can click on the Calendar button in your Reading pane which will open your Outlook Calendar in a new window and allow you to check your schedule. How?
- If the meeting request is an email asking you to pick the date of the meeting, reply with your own meeting request either by dragging the email to the calendar folder which will open a meeting request or using the Schedule It button on the SimplyFile tool bar. How?
- Don’t be afraid to book meetings 2 to 3 weeks or more in advance. Often we procrastinate on scheduling meetings because we are waiting to hear back from someone else about a potentially conflicting meeting. Rather than waiting, go ahead and schedule meetings further out if possible – you can usually move up a meeting or schedule a cold call if a tentative meeting doesn’t come through.
We’ll address Category 3 – emails that require research or some sort of task assignment in Part IV of the Managing Inbox Overload series. In the mean time, I encourage you to start playing with some of the Category 2 tools mentioned above and give me some feedback on how that is working for you.
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