Admit it. Your inbox is your to-do list. While there are better tools, it is what we use all day. So, I have a single tip to help you ease your inbox insanity, one that will change your day more than any other tip.
This tip is for Microsoft Outlook for Windows. It probably applies to others but given the dominance of Outlook I’m limiting my tip to Outlook.
Given that your Outlook inbox is your to-do list, you need a simple way to determine what is important. Since most subject lines don’t give you the information you need to know, you have to open emails, think about the content, and make a decision.
Editing Subject Lines
What you don’t know is that you can easily (and SHOULD be) editing the subject lines of your email.
- Open an existing email.
- Type in some information in the subject line such as: COMPLETE BY 2/14/2012 – Buy Roses for Dale!
- Close the email (click the X to close the window or ESCAPE (ESC) key)
- Click YES to save.
Your email subject now reads with whatever text you added. I find this VERY helpful for quickly prioritizing and getting back to people. (I often type in call Paul at 207-755-5555 when I need to call someone back)
There are all sorts of strategies to make this effective and I’ll review more in the future. For now I suggest:
- Including names & phone numbers if you need to call someone.
- Specify a due date if you really want to complete by a certain time.
P.S. This tip works great too when the original subject line gets replied to multiple times and the email body no longer relates to the subject.