How to Keep Your Inbox from Dragging You Down.

You know the feeling.
You’ve been on vacation.
Maybe a four day weekend.
The reckoning is coming.
You open your inbox to some 200 plus emails.
Some unopened.
Time to sloth through for 2 plus hours to reorg the whole mess.
Ugh.
Nothing but a time drain.
Lucky for you, I just taught an awesome class developed by Franklin Covey called the 5 Choices of Extraordinary Productivity and I have the master moves to save your inbox.

Get Control of your Inbox

Here they are:

1. Have folders that make sense. It’s really simple to add folders but frequently they don’t make sense or your folders need to be updated. This happened to me recently. I had a folder in my personal inbox named “Duke” while my daughter was attending the university and I kept track of various school and financial aid information. She graduated two years ago. I am working for Duke as an instructor starting in September. Now the “Duke” folder is housing different information. As Andrew Mellen espouses in his book, Unstuff Your LIfe, you need to have categories that work for you. I used to have folders for each blog I subscribe to. Now I have a main folder called “Blogs” and subfolders with each author’s name. I also update my folders periodically so that now the “Duke” folder is not a subfolder under “Kids” but is now a subfolder under “Current Clients”. Make sure you organize it in a way that makes sense for you and update it as appropriate.

2. Set up rules so you don’t have to open unnecessary emails. Frankin Covey calls this “Win without Fighting”, so essentially you never even see an email and, therefore, never have to fight it. Low hanging fruit here is to have junk mail automatically go to the junk mail or delete folder. I’ve read in several places that it’s not wise to unsubscribe to emails because they frequently create more emails by confirming your email address (obviously these are disreputable spammers). So if you have them go automatically to the delete folder you don’t need to bother to unsubscribe. Shopping receipts can go to the “Purchases” folder automatically if you set up rules from your most frequented online shopping sites like Amazon, Staples, Southwest and the like. What I really like about doing this is that my cell phone inbox doesn’t blow up with emails I want a record of but don’t necessarily want to look at on my phone. It cuts back on the alerts.

3. Turn it into what it is. During the class, as we all sat at our laptops connected to our Outlook inbox, we could turn all those incoming emails into what they actually were. So when I get an invite for a meeting or conference, I can drag the email down to the “Calendar” and create an appointment to decide whether to attend on the last day of early registration. I can drag an email requesting data on turnover to the “Task” list and set up a due date on the first day of the next month. I can drag a new contact email to my “People” icon and set up the contact information. When you do this, you can practically empty your inbox to a handful of emails. Before I started using this method, I invariably had email that sat in my inbox until it was taken care of. So if I couldn’t decide on a conference some six months out, that email would sit there gathering dust and cluttering my head until I could actually sign up for it. Start dragging your incoming email and creating what it really is.

4. Link to Locate. This is the last “Master Move” in the 5 Choices class. Basically, in any calendar entry, you can “insert” an email, a contact, a task or a note. So if you have a meeting with a new client on Friday at 10 AM, you can have the client’s contact information, the proposal you sent them and the notes from the phone call you had with them. They are all sitting there in your calendar entry. In addition, if you copy your associate on the appointment request, they will have access to all the information as well. It’s a nice neat little package. No need to set up an email folder and hope you have all the information in there. Or printing off tons of paper for the meeting. It’s all there in Outlook waiting patiently for the appointed time.

I have to say that even the technology folks in the class didn’t realize all the capabilities of Outlook. Once you start fully utilizing it, it’s remarkable how efficient you can be. Out of 13 participants, every single person had their “mind blown” by how easy it was to organize their technology. My husband brought his laptop home and, after a brief lesson on the 4 items above, he went from over 10,000 emails (all of which were flagged) to ZERO in about two hours.  So there you have it. A nice neat efficient inbox. Whew.

9 of the Best Books from My Reading List

You’re thinking. I’m not sure what book is worthwhile. After all it’s an investment of your precious time.
At least 4 hours if not much more.
If you’re going to invest 4 to 8 hours of your precious, over committed time to reading a book, you want to make sure it’s worth your investment.
Guess what? I’ve got you covered.
I’ve already invested my time in several books over the last year and I’m going to point you in the right direction.
Easy peasy.9 Books

Most Impactful book. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. This book is short and sweet and eye opening. The agreements are: Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take anything personally, Don’t make assumptions and Always do your best. From childhood we take on all sorts of agreements which skew our view of the world and of our thoughts. To drop all your prior agreements (re: your story) is incredibly challenging. If you listen to the audio book it’s read by Peter Coyote and he does an excellent job. If you want to change your thoughts, this is a must read.

Most Inspiring Book. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. This is the incredible story of Viktor Frankl as a Holocaust survivor. It’s gripping but incredibly enlightening. Here is a trained psychiatrist recounting his days as he watched many people perish as well as those who overcame the unrelenting torture that was Auschwitz. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Need inspiration, this is your book.

Most Useful Book. The Relationship Cure by John Gottman. The basics of connecting and/or not connecting with the people in your life. I am vigilant now about the way I connect with people. Am I turning away, turning against or turning towards connection. We’ve all done it. Deliberately ignored someone, been defiant or reciprocated an outgoing gesture. It’s all here. And if you listen to it on audible, Dr. Gottman is the narrator. His voice is so calm and so accessible. You absolutely feel like you can start using the information right now. Really.

Interesting but Not as Useful. Spy the Lie by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero. This book was written by ex CIA operatives. Fascinating stories and tips for picking up on liars. The only problem is that I’m not a detective or a Russian spy. I guess I might be able to figure out if my son stole a cookie from a cookie jar by reading his body language but I guess I don’t think I have that many liars in my life, which is a good thing. This is a must read for anyone in the detective field or maybe Human Resources.

Most Accessible Book. Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. Chamine gives you things you can start doing right this minute to get out of listening to the saboteurs that are talking in your head. He also has a ton of free assessments and audio meditations on his website: positiveintelligence.com. His main suggestions is to do PQ reps or I would call them mindful techniques to get really present. You can’t be worrying or suffering from anxiety if you are in the moment. Another bonus is that he is the narrator of the audio book.

Most Encompassing Book. 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Dan is a reporter for ABC news. He takes you on an auto biographical journey on his way to being happier and under less anxiety. He chases down every genre of self-help gurus. So if want the Reader’s Digest on Deepack Chopra, Dalia Lama, Eckhart Tolle and countless others, this is your book. It’s fun, at times light hearted and other times cynical but always real.

Least Likely to be Utilized. Unstuff Your Life by Andrew Mellen. This guy has excellent ideas to completely reorganize your life. I would love to hire him to organize mine. But his ideas seem way too OCD. His mantra is everything has a home and everything is in its place. He also obviously does not have a dog or children or a wayward husband. I’d love to take a week off and reorganize, label and back up all my photos but I think I’ll just rely on Facebook.

Cracks Me Up. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. Jen narrates this self-help book. She is incredibly funny and doesn’t pull any punches. I don’t think I implemented anything from this book but I was incredibly inspired when I finished it. “I can pretty much guarantee that every time you tearfully ask yourself the question, “WTF is my problem?!” the answer lies in some lame, limiting, and false subconscious belief that you’ve been dragging around without even realizing” It’s a fun read and even better listen on audible.

And Out of Left Field. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jonathan Davis. This book is some 20 hours long so I only suggest this if you like reading about historic figures and if you have a lot of time. I don’t actually have a lot of time but I listen to books when I travel so I got through this in a few weeks. Interesting story and it’s amazing how large the Mongol empire became. Barbaric to be sure, but an amazing story.

A few other honorable mentions are Small Move, Big Change, Better than Before, How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big, and The Obstacle is the Way. I have also been listening to the Great Courses which is a lecture by a professor who is interesting but they are all about 12 hours long so it is a commitment. But if you want to learn how to be a Non-Fiction Writer or Settle Disputes, there are a bunch of titles to enjoy.
So get out there and pick up that book and invest your time. I didn’t include the many books I thought were duds. Happy reading.


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