Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
One of the scenarios I get asked to coach teams on is, “Email Therapy.”
Basically, this translates to, “Help our team deal with email overload” or “Help our team get un-swamped” or “Help our team process and manage email more effectively.” In a lot of these scenarios, it’s where the team uses email as a heavy part of their workload.
Why do they ask me? Usually it’s word of mouth where somebody I’ve mentored shares the approach. In other cases, it’s a team that wants to adopt Getting Results the Agile Way, but want to first get a handle on their email challenge.
Why Keep an Empty Inbox I deal with hundreds of email each day, but I keep my inbox empty. Having an empty inbox is not only a good feeling, but it streamlines things. My inbox really is for incoming messages. I keep my inbox clear because I have a place for actions and tasks, a place to stick the email I’ve read, a simple way to schedule time for things that take time, and a simple folder system for archiving useful reference information. I avoid “death by a 1000 paper cuts” and “paper shuffling” using this approach. Because my approach is designed to easily deal with large volumes of email, it’s easy for me to batch process. I limit the amount of administration time I spend, so I can optimize the time I spend on higher value activities.
5 Patterns for Keeping Your Email Inbox Empty To share my approach, I use patterns. This way whether you use GMail, HotMail, Outlook, etc., you can still apply the same concepts.
Here are the main ideas behind each pattern:
Pattern #1 - One Folder for All Read Mail
Pattern #2 - Filter Out Everything Not in Your Immediate World
Pattern #3 - Tickler Lists of Action
Pattern #4 - Schedule Items You Need Time For
Pattern #5 - Reference Folders
The main anti-patterns that these patterns help you avoid are:
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