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Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

How to Turn Your Inbox Into a Personal Assistant

The main person in charge of preventing domestic terrorism cannot be reached by email.

How’s that make you feel? Safe?

David Cook with the Christian Science Monitor reports that Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Secretary, does not communicate via email. At all.

Napolitano says email ‘just sucks up time’ and that, for her, all the messages become major distractions. Instead, Cook says she does a lot of work by phone.

If the head of Homeland Security avoids her inbox because it’s a cluttered mess, then Americawe have a problem.

When used to its fullest, an inbox is much more than a place to store emails. In fact, it can even become a personal assistant that keeps you on top of your life. Unlike other assistants, this one doesn’t ask for health insurance, a 401k match or 90-minute lunch breaks.

Interested in making the hire?

Follow these three easy steps for the extra help you always wanted — and can suddenly afford!

How to Turn Your Inbox Into a Personal Assistant

1. If you receive an email that you don’t need/want, archive it immediately

Our inboxes balloon in size because we get countless emails that we either don’t want or can’t find time to read (i.e. daily deals or newsletters). Hopefully, that’s never a problem with the incredibly valuable and informative News To Live By emails. You know, if you’d like to subscribe or somethin’…

Rather than let unneeded emails fill up the screen, remove them. Go with the ‘archive’ option if possible — don’t permanently delete them — and if you need to retrieve a random one, you can find it later.

2. Check your folders on a regular basis

Folders are great in theory but too often they become dusty storehouses where emails are all but forgotten. A quick perusal through your folders from time-to-time will remind you of any critical messages you may have completely ignored.

3. Leave open any ongoing conversations/unfinished business

With your inboxes clear of emails you don’t need, you can finally see what truly matters. (Are you paying attention, Ms. Napolitano?)

If you’re involved in an email thread that’s unresolved (i.e weekend plans or work project), leave the email open. When you whittle down the list to only the essential messages, you’re probably left with about 20-25.

Those 20-25 emails, in effect, become a working to-do list. Throughout the day/week/month, they become a constant reminder of tasks or conversations that still need to be completed.

It’s like an actual personal assistant is saying: “Don’t forget. You have to figure out who’s bringing what to the potluck dinner on Saturday night.” And once the conversation is complete, send that email to ‘Archive’ like all the rest.

If only Janet Napolitano knew about this handy email trick. Then we’d all feel a bit better about our country’s national security.


Like the idea? Got a better one for managing email? 

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