Whatever time of year it is – it’s always good to clean up your e-mail folders. And not only clean up, but also see if you can adjust the way that you deal with e-mails.
Do you want to clean up rigorously:
1) Create an “Old” folder and put all e-mails older than the current year there.
2) Go to that folder and sort by sender, or by subject. Keep only the most recent, or those that still contain valuable information. You can probably get rid of a lot.
3) Empty the ‘Deleted items’ folder.
4) Check the ‘Sent items’ folder. Are there any messages there for which you are still waiting for a response? Put it in a folder ‘Waiting’ – see also point 3) below.
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The chances are that you will be working from home in one form or another. It is important that you have a good place to work, but how do you do that if you don’t have your own work room or work space? If you are working with a lap top only, it is easy enough to find a place to work. But often you will also want some paperwork, a telephone, and perhaps a tablet or other device.
You need working space. Even if it is part of the dining room table. Arrange that you have access to the space for a certain time. Agreeing blocks of time (e.g. 09.30 to 12.00) works well if you have to take into account family or housemates that also need the table. Many creative ideas have been thought of, with home-made screens, marked-out areas, or an improvised extra table leaf.
In addition to the work surface, it is important that you have a fixed place to store your laptop and accessories, folders or writing pads etc. Your shelf or your cupboard. When you work, you know that everything is there. When you have finished your work or stop for the day, put everything away. Clear the table – make this a habit.
Working in blocks and clearing everything up helps you to find a balance when you working from home. Divide the days of the week into for example work, house, children, social contacts, exercise. Some activities will be fixed, others not. Make a schedule for yourself and off you go. The schedule does not have to be set in concrete, but it helps you to make sure that you do all the things that require attention.
Make clear when you are working and when you are ‘at home’ for other activities. If you have the flexibility to decide when you work, think about when you have the most energy to undertake particular bits of work. If the timing of the work is not under your control, take care to plan and make agreements about ‘focus’ time. My Plan-in is a handy tool for this.
Read also my tip about Concentrated working
A proportion, or a large proportion, of the e-mails in your in-box are probably digital newsletters, or updates for organisations or products for which you registered long ago.
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Imagine your work, or a project in your work, as a vegetable garden. The vegetable garden requires constant attention, but not all the required work can, or needs to be done, at the same time.
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There are many ways of getting work done. An effective way is to divide the work into manageable chunks, make a plan for these, and then focus on completing a chunk at a time.
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