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How to Tame Your Wild, Woolly E-Mail Inbox

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Included in HR Weekly eletter -- June 26, 2007 issue (premium article)

Poorly managed e-mail can slow you down, hurt your productivity and damage your work reputation. A few simple tricks can help you regain command over your out-of-control inbox.

Outlook (2003) users should follow these four steps religiously. Don't fall behind in your e-mail upkeep.

Step 1: Move task-oriented e-mail messages out of your inbox if they will take longer than five minutes to handle. Drag each message to your Task folder and change the subject name, so you’ll know its topic at a glance. Then delete it from your inbox, so all your “to-do’s” are grouped in one place.

If you need to reply to the message later, click on it, go to “Action” and choose “Forward.”

Step 2: Drag e-mail to your Calendar to schedule time for yourself to work on it. Estimate how much time the task will take, then drop it into your schedule.

Step 3: Add a “reminder” when you use a follow-up flag, and the message text will turn red when it’s overdue. That makes it easy to see pressing tasks at a glance. Once you’ve completed the task, manually mark it “complete.”

Step 4: Develop a color scheme for flags using two or three different colors. You might designate blue for anything to do with your employees, green for vendors and red for a high-priority project. Even if your inbox is full, you’ll be able to spot the hottest items.  

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