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Effective time management is an indispensable skill. In Time Management Fundamentals, Dave Crenshaw explains how to sensibly allocate time in order to achieve greater productivity. Dave details a set of principles for staying organized, consolidating the workspace, keeping a clear mind, and developing a time budget. Also covered are techniques for managing a full inbox, processing email, and reserving time for the most important activities. Exercise files accompany the course.
Before I walk you through how to process email, I need to take a moment and show you how to set up email rules-- sometimes referred to also as filters. Email rules, or filters, are automatic rules on how to deal with certain emails when they come in. The most basic example of this is a coupon email from your favorite business. Many people are afraid to sign up for coupons because they're worried that it's going to clog up their email inbox. I'll show you what I do and why I sign up for every coupon site for vendors that I frequent regularly, and why it doesn't affect my inbox at all.
Here we have a coupon from a local pizza place. I like to order pizza from them, and I'd like to be able to get coupons that I use regularly. So what I'll do on this email is I'll right-click on the email, and then you'll see an option that says create a rule. I can also create rules at Home, the Move section, the Rules button, and clicking on Manage Rules and Alerts, and set them up manually, but it's easiest to do with an existing email. So I'm going to right-click, go to Create Rule.
You'll see this window where you can create a wide variety of different rules for an email. If I get an email from a certain email address, if it has certain words in the subject, is sent to certain email accounts, and so on. There are more advanced options too, but really all we need is the most simple kind of rule: what email address did it come from? I'll select the rule if I get an email from this pizza place and I'm going to automatically move the item to a folder. Now it asks me to select a folder.
Remember that Resource folder that I had you create? Here it's okay to create a new folder under Resource. I can do this for one reason; this is automatic filing. It requires no future effort on my part. Also, using a separate presorted folder saves time by making it easy for me to find these rule-based emails when I need them again. So I'm going to create a folder called Coupons, and then I click OK. Then I'll make sure that I check the mark where it says Apply to all emails in this folder, and then click OK.
Now you'll notice that it searches the email inbox and throws the email into the Coupons folder I created. This makes it very, very easy for me in the future if I ever need to buy something. I can just go to the Coupons folder, or I can search for the email and find it very quickly to get the discounts or the best deals. You can apply these same kinds of rules for all sorts of informational emails that you get, such as newsletters and software updates. I once worked with a mortgage company that would get rate updates multiple times through the day, and then we put them all into that folder.
That way it didn't clog up the inbox, but they could still access it at any time once they needed the newest information. Now an important caution: avoid setting a rule for an email where you may have to process it manually. Doing so would create more than one email gathering point. The only place you should even need to check email is your inbox. Let me give you an example. Let's say your favorite aunt has the habit of sending you funny pictures and stories a lot.
Be careful about creating a rule for her because if she does send you something it does have critical information, then you may miss out on it. Remember, when you set a rule for an email you're telling the computer to automatically answer all of the "what, when, where: processing questions for you. What's the next step? Store the email. When will it be done? Right now. Where is its home? The folder. It handles all of that automatically for you, so make sure that you don't set a rule for any email account where you might have to check the email and process it.
Rules and filters, when used properly, can save you valuable time and make processing even easier.
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