Don’t you just love coming home from a relaxing holiday to find an overwhelming backlog of email just waiting there for you in your inbox? Yeah, thought so. It kind of makes going on holiday not worth it, especially if you take a REAL holiday where you unplug from your devices.
So you are back in your office, with your regular back from holiday catch-up to do plus a few new projects to tackle and probably a couple of surprise deadlines on top of everything else AND a huge backlog of email. What do you do? Before you decide to hit Select ALL and delete, try these tips:
How to Get Your Inbox Back Under Control After a Holiday
#1: Designate Email Catch-Up Time – Be realistic about how much time you can allocate to catching up on the backlog of email. Remember, your priorities come first and then you can return your inbox to sane levels. It’s okay if it takes a week to get through the backlog – the important thing is not to turn email catch-up into a Fake Work project.
#2: Do a Quick Scan for Fires – Now that you are in your inbox, start by scanning through your entire inbox looking for emails that need to be handled immediately. Most often (if you left your office in an organized state), there isn’t that much that requires immediate attention.
#3: Search and Delete – One of the most satisfying ways to get your email down to manageable levels is doing a quick search and delete. The easiest way to do this is by switching from Sort by Date to Sort by From, and deleting all the junk emails and dumping all your newsletters into a reading file. Getting the ‘clutter’ out of your inbox makes it easier to spot that urgent email from your client.
#4: Schedule Your Backlog Follow-up – Give yourself a reasonable period of time to catch-up on all the emails you need to reply to eventually. For example, you may decide to give yourself a week or even two to get back to everyone by setting aside 30 minutes every day to handle the backlog replies.
#5: Manage the New Incoming Email – Keep up with the new incoming emails. Here’s the trick: never let the day end with a higher number than the day before. So if you got your inbox down to 425 the day before and now it’s at 450, you have to get it below 425 before wrapping up for the day.
#6: Don’t Let Old Message Stagnate – Set an end date for your email catch-up project or before you know it, you will have lost track of the old messages that are stagnating at the bottom of your inbox. If chipping away at it isn’t working and you are at the end of your two-week goal, it’s time to bite the bullet and glue yourself to the chair until the task is done.
Remember, when it comes to managing email, the best approach is the daily approach. Aim to get your inbox down to zero at the end of every day or at least at the end of every week, especially the week prior to your holiday so you don’t end up with a doubly overwhelming task when you return.