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Dealing With Your Holiday Email Backlog

Aug 17, 2007
It's that time of year when school's out and everyone heads off for their summer holiday.

If you're someone who relies on email as part of your business, you probably dread coming back from holiday to hundreds of emails. The thought of spending the first week dealing with them all and feeling that you're having to catch up all the time, so here are a few ideas to help you deal with the backlog.

The process for dealing with a holiday backlog is the same as handling emails on a daily basis, the volume is just much larger.

Once you've planned out the important things you need to get done on your first day back, set aside an hour to go through your inbox. Yes, I know it's probably going to take much longer than that but it's just the start.

Don't respond to any new incoming emails until you have cleared what's already in your Inbox.

First scan - DON'T READ OR RESPOND TO ANY EMAILS ON THIS SCAN. Just go through quickly and eliminate the spam and any email you know you don't need to read. Use the sort function to sort your email by sender or subject, which makes it easier to delete the junk.

You don't have time to read everything so delete anything that doesn't require your attention or have information you absolutely MUST have. Don't save it 'just in case'.

Second scan - pick out all the priority emails you need to respond to first and place them in a separate 'Action' folder.

Set aside time in your diary to respond to your 'Action' emails - either do this in that first hour, as you should still have a reasonable chunk of the first hour left, or set aside more time later in the day.

Depending on the volume of emails, you should be able to complete these first two scans in the first hour. Do the third scan too if you still have time, otherwise leave that until the next time you're scheduled to work on your email.

Allow yourself a few minutes to take a quick look at any new emails - in case there is anything important that needs attention, but I mean a 'few minutes'. Don't get distracted!

Third scan - if your filters haven't already sorted out reading emails, now is the time to place all of these in the appropriate folder(s).

Fourth scan - deal with what's left. Less urgent action emails can now be dealt with. What's left? If it's not action or reading - it's probably not urgent so can be deleted.

Once you've safely dealt with the backlog that came in while you were away - only then, can you deal with applying the same process to the new emails that have come in.

I've mentioned before that I have a number of accounts that I use to sort my email before it even gets to the Inbox and folders. Non-essential newsletters and recent Internet account sign-ups, go to one email address. Postings from discussion groups go to another account. Work related emails and the newsletters I really want to read, go to my main account and then use filters to sort these into folders.

Before you go away - if you have the option - switch any email groups to special notices or admin only. You can do this for all Yahoo groups and some online discussion/networking groups usually allow you to switch off email notification. This will reduce the volume coming through in the first place so you have less to deal with.

Copyright 2006: Clare Evans
About the Author
Clare writes on several topics to enable busy individuals and small business owners organise their lives more effectively. Receive free weekly Time Tips when you register for her monthly newsletter at www.clareevans.co.uk.
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