Thursday, August 9, 2012

Secrets to a Tidy Email In-Box!

As attorneys focused on getting the job done thoroughly and succinctly (and billing hours at the same time) , you know how difficult it is to keep up with the deluge of emails—newsletters, internal or client communications, media interactions, hundreds of Google alerts, and so on.

It’s even more difficult to keep work organized when your inbox is bursting at the seams with dozens of unread messages and overdue tasks. So, how can you keep up with the constant flow of information and approaching deadlines?

What I do is maintain an organized email inbox, task list, and electronic calendar.

On my first day on the job as a public relations intern, I created folders and sub-folders, and filed each email into the most appropriate place. Over the years, I’ve kept up with this system. It has saved me from missing deadlines and reminded me when it was necessary to work on a project or follow up with a reporter.

I’m proud to say that I also keep a tidy task list. It’s color coded for each client, organized alphabetically. On some days I even organize each account item by priority. I realize this is may sound crazy—you certainly don’t need to go this far if you’re looking to clean up your inbox—but it works for me.

A few of my secrets for maintaining a clean inbox and task list:

Monitoring coverage: When waiting for a case development to appear, I create a task and reminder for when it should be ready with a link that makes it easy for me to check for it.

Pitching: When I want to follow up with someone, I blind carbon copy myself and flag it with a task reminder for when it would be appropriate to reach out again.

Recurring tasks: It doesn’t matter if I have been updating a specific document every Tuesday for the past year, and will remember to do it anyways, it always helps to have a reminder.

Writing: Some days, I devote a few hours to writing pitches or client memos. Despite whether I plan to send to a reporter or client that day, I still use the time and save my work in a task reminder. This saves me from future stress, in times where it may be crucial to get a pitch out but I do not have time to devote to drafting.

My inbox is the foundation for everything I do at work. Although memory serves me well in knowing my responsibilities, it doesn’t hurt to have a task reminder pop up and put the pressure on to get it done. Any time I am assigned a project, I enter it into a draft email or task. Because of my obsession to keep things organized and up to date, I feel a strong urge to finalize that email and mark a red flagged item complete.

I never leave the office without looking at my task list, which ensures I have completed everything that absolutely needed to be done that day. Not only does this keep me on track, it gives me peace of mind.

Casey Cardinal is an account executive at InkHouse Media + Marketing, where this story first appeared. Follow Casey on Twitter @caseycardinal. A version of this story first appeared on the Inklings blog.

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