How to manage your Inbox, save time, and respond in a timely manner

In his blog post yesterday, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch talked about email communication crisis and our ability as human beings to be able to respond to all the email that we receive. He said “The volume of communication requests for most people today are far, far beyond what they can handle. Few people today respond to every communication they receive. And an increasing number don’t even claim to be able to read every communication they receive, let alone respond”.

I am happy to report that I have zero unread email messages in my Inbox. Here is my method for managing my Inbox to ensure that all of the messages that need to get answered do, in a timely manner:

1. Add a “Check Email” and “Answer Email” items into your schedule

Checking and answering your email on a schedule is the first step to make sure that it gets dealt with in a timely matter. It will allow you to manage your email rather than your email managing you. When you check email, enforce a Touch it Once Policy (see below). When you are ready to answer emails, go straight to your “Follow Up” folder (see below)

2. Touch it Once Policy – Every email needs to be dealt with when you read it

When I decide to check email, I take an action with every email that I read. I either forward it to the appropriate person, file it in a folder, reply to it or flag it for action to reply later, or delete it.

I especially like the flagging functionality in Outlook(Windows) & Entourage (Mac) to help me enforce the Touch it Once Policy.



I assign different flag colors to all of my different tasks to make it easier for me to scan my tasks…for example:
Red = write a reply today
Purple = forwarded an email to someone…make sure to follow up with them
Green = write a reply this week

You can also Add a Reminder to your flag and set a date and time by which the message needs to be answered.

Another great thing about Flagging is that once you flag an item, it appears in the “For Follow Up” folder view in Outlook.


This is great because when I’m ready to answer email, I can go straight to that folder and see what needs to be done and when.

I implemented this One Touch Policy last year and it has saved me countless hours. I hope this helps you to too.

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