With email as the main source of communication in today’s business world, it’s not surprising that many tasks are shared and assigned via email. But with the rate and speed that email can pile up, it is incredibly easy to lose track of an important email and miss a necessary task.
Why doesn’t email work as a to-do list? Beyond the abundance of email to sort through and process, your inbox is missing key features that only a to-do list can offer. You continually must sort through emails as tasks are not always mentioned in the subject lines. One email may include 5 or 6 tasks, and keeping track of what has been done might get complicated. Many email programs don’t allow you to sort your emails in any way but alphabetically by sender or by date received, which means it’s hard to group tasks together. You aren’t able to prioritize which email includes the most important task, or sort them by due date. An inbox is full of distractions – how can you focus on tasks when there is so much going on?
The Professional Organizer in NYC urges you not to use your inbox as a to-do list. Instead, here are tips on how to turn your emails into a functioning to-do list!
Pick a task management system. It doesn’t matter what you choose, there are so many options! You know yourself best. You could use a paper planner, Outlook, Google Calendar, or an online project management system like Asana, Trello, or ToDoist (and there are so many more to choose from!). It doesn’t matter what you use, as long as you USE it!
Flow tasks into your system. When you open an email, instead of just leaving it in your inbox to remind yourself of the task, or mark it unread so you come back to it, immediately add it to your task management system. Be as specific as possible when adding the task, making sure to include all important notes and details like specific deadlines from the email. If an email is sent to you asking you to complete a project, you can now take those details and break them into smaller tasks to add to your task management system. The key here is adding the tasks as the emails come in. If you wait to do it later, the email may get lost in the shuffle and you’ll begin to miss deadlines.
Regardless of the system that you select, it needs to provide you with a window into your complete list of to-do’s as tasks are also communicated via paper, in meetings or as direct requests. Once all of your tasks are compiled in one place, you can efficiently and effectively prioritize so that all deadlines are met. While managing your tasks will require a little time, it will be time well spent.
As your tasks are shifted out of your inbox, you can allow your email to get back to its original purpose – to just be email! Email is a great tool for communication and fostering relationships. It also works brilliantly as a safe and timely way to communicate, leaving a paper trail of conversations that are all time and date stamped. When you can remove the tasks from your email, not only will your inbox be more manageable, but you will find yourself less anxious over missing important deadlines and skipping tasks. The Professional Organizer in NYC urges you to remove the tasks from your email and watch your productivity increase!