Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I, like everyone I know, have tons of e-mail to deal with.  Additionally, I've seen several people recently ask on twitter and such for tips or ideas from others on how to deal with the dreaded stuff.  I'm not pro, but if you're swamped by your inbox, here's what I do to manage mine.

USE ONE MAIL PROGRAM.  I use a mac so I have all my mail accessed from one program- apple mail.  It's native to mac and integrates well with my phone and my dot me account.

BUT USE MULTIPLE E-MAIL ACCOUNTS.  While I use only one program to manage my email, I have multiple inboxes that feed it.  First off, I separate my life by e-mail addresses from the beginning by using multiple e-mail accounts.

  • EMAIL #1: work e-mail.  I send anything related to ministry through this e-mail.
  • EMAIL #2: youth group e-mail.  I use this e-mail as the reply e-mail on retreat flyers and promotional products.  It's also the e-mail listed on websites for student ministry stuff. 
  • EMAIL #3: family e-mail. This is an e-mail address that both my wife and I get.  It is our family e-mail and it's what we use for mailing lists we want to subscribe to, family or friends, and if the school or some club needs to send us info.
  • EMAIL #4: private e-mail. This is an e-mail I never really send much from.  Mostly I use this e-mail as the place where all my twitter, facebook, and blog comments go so that I can manage them easily or ignore them and not have them clog up other areas of my life.  I also like hearing about this stuff when it happens, so this is the only e-mail I have that feeds to my phone.  
APPLY AUTO FILTER OR RULES. If you're on my staff or someone who regularly sends me e-mail, I have your e-mail filtered to a folder in my mail program before I even touch it.  To do this, I have created "rules" within my mail preferences and whenever mail is from certain people, it automatically is moved to a folder with their name on it.  This allows me to do two things:  #1. manage my inbox inflow better.  #2. find things from key people without using the search window to go hunting.

DECIDE IMMEDIATELY WHAT TO DO WITH IT: I have 3 basic things I try to do with my e-mail so that it's not touched 20 times by me:  
  • READ IT, REPLY, MOVE ON.  I try and do this with everything I can.  If I can read it and reply, then I do.  Once it's done, if I don't need to keep it, I delete it. 
  • READ IT, REPLY, FILE IT, MOVE ON.  If I can't delete it, because it's important or I'm gonna need it again, then I file it in a folder according to the topic.  Like if it's for a trip or a writing project or a family vacation... once I respond to it, I remove it from my inbox and put it in a project folder. 
  • READ IT, LEAVE IT, COME BACK TO IT.  This is my to do list in an inbox. If it requires a more lengthy response or I need to re-visit it again in the near future, then I leave it in my inbox and try and set a time to address e-mail all at once.
DECIDE WHEN TO DEAL WITH IT:  e-mail has this nasty ability to run my life.  So I have to turn it off from time to time.  This is one reason why I don't get work e-mail to my phone.  Lately, I've had to decide that I'll handle e-mail first thing in the office and toward the end of the day.  In the middle, I can only respond to the stuff that falls into the first category because my days just get too full and sidetracked by e-mail if I let it be a constant voice in my ear.  So, if it can be done in a quick, one or two sentence reply, I'll hit it midday.  I also have found that blocking out a chunk of time (2 hours or so) periodically really helps me to pound through a bunch of e-mail all at once and get a lot of it cleared away.   



Phil Bell 8:01 AM  

Great ideas and very practical! Thanks for sharing this. I will putting some of this into place.


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San Diego, CA
Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

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