For many people, managing emails has become next to impossible. The sheer volume, paired with the diversity of their contents, and the expectation of an instant reply, has made this part of my job really challenging. The worst part is that the time spent reading and answering emails really takes up time that could be used doing something more productive – or at least, something that feels more productive.
As a scholar of workplace relationships, I know that email communication is a part of the relational work that we do and they do serve a purpose (at least 85% of the time). However, I don’t like feeling overwhelmed by my inbox and feeling like there are loose ends to go back to later.
Thankfully, I found the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen (generally referred to as the GTD method). At the beginning of November I was selected to attend a New PI meeting in Montreal hosted by CIHR (given the almost single-digit grant success rates I was over the moon to be invited!). Anyway, one of the speakers recommended this awesome book and it has forever changed my email management system (and, therefore, my life, obviously…only half kidding here…).
The system I used is quite simple. All I did was add 2 folders to my email: 1 for things that need action and 1 for things that I am waiting on something or somebody for. Then I went through my entire inbox and sorted every message. They either went into one of these new folders, got deleted, or got archived. Now I sort incoming messages in the same way and set aside time each day to go through the action items and the waiting on items. Once they are dealt with, I archive them.
Again, this system isn’t difficult and it has made a huge difference in just a short time! I feel in control of my inbox and am better able to triage the messages that are coming in. GTD, where have you been all my life?! In all seriousness, it is the best ROI I’ve had for a time management strategy for a long time. Highly recommended!