Word association time:
- Voice Mail
If the first and third words conjured slogging through innumerous messages, you’re not alone. Email has long been identified as that sucking sound that you hear as soon as you start your work day. In my work, that flashing red light that used to indicate I had a voice mail has long ago been replaced by Outlook’s pop-up email notification.
Not only has email been identified as a detriment to productivity, so has that email notifier. Clicking this link will show numerous productivity experts telling you to turn the darn thing off. It’s a tip on page 35 of Franklin Covey’s Time Management for Outlook Toolkit. However, this email desktop alert was designed to serve a purpose: letting you know when emails important to you have arrived.*
So how can you use the email notification tool without derailing your productivity every time an “FYI email” or free whitepaper pops up in your Inbox? By not putting those emails in your Inbox in the first place.
Here’s a technique I developed a while ago that routes all emails to a folder that’s not tracked by the email notification tool, then pushes the stuff I want** back into my Inbox.
Second: create an Outlook rule that applies to all messages, with the action: “Move to the following folder.” Specify the folder you just created.
Third: provide exceptions to the rule. Mine are:
- If it was received from members of my immediate team, my boss, my boss’ boss, and project managers for the projects I’m working on.
- It was marked with High importance
- It’s a type of Meeting Request
- It’s flagged as “Call.”
You may not find all these exceptions useful for you. For example, perhaps these settings will not be as exclusionary if you’ve got people who mark every email “important.” Hopefully, this small selection of exculsions gives you an idea of how robust your Outlook rules can be.
There is a catch:
You’ll have two “Inboxes” to check. And this second environment, quite frankly, runs the risk of accruing a balance, as it will be easier not to apply the “zero Inbox”/”Getting Things Done” methodologies that you may use to manage your “primary” Inbox.
Weigh your options. Will you benefit from allowing Outlook to help you prioritize the emails you address first? Will your productivity rise as your email distractions decrease? If so, activate those organizational skills you’ve resolved to apply, and give this a try.
* That request for information from your boss’ boss for today’s meeting? Yeah, you’ll want to get that.
** A much smaller list, n’est ce pas?