Getting more organized is a good thing and I’ve been working on this for myself.  No matter how organized I get, and how much faster I get things done, it seems though that the to-do list manages to grow longer. One of the main things that I have discovered takes up my time these days is email.  I respond to questions in email.  I send out files that are requested via email.  I have long volleys of conversation with friends, clients, and peers. Clients and I exchange files and commentary, then more files. Yet the emails waiting in my inbox increase when I’m not looking. Sometimes, the number grows while I’m looking right at my inbox (forget the watched pot not boiling!). So, I’m starting small by tackling this growing issue of email taking so much of my time…at this point a good 3-4 hours each day.

One small step…

Well, in working on this whole email management / time reclaimation / organization project, I have come across some advice that is helping me to save some time and I hope this advice might help you. Some of these suggestions come from my experiences and struggles. Other info comes from a blogger who is wicked smart and very insightful.

  1. Turn common responses into email signatures (not to be confused with electronic signatures

    • A month or so ago, I realized I had a bunch of messages I needed to respond to that required the same response. I was setting up my email on my new laptop, and creating my signature blocks. Suddenly, I realized that if I set up my response in a signature, I could easily send it to all of the people who needed it (people who were requesting info on an upcoming event) and then in the future would have it ready to send as well.  So, I started with that signature, and to date have added about 6 more signatures that are just for common responses.
  2. Write rules that move all those listserv emails off into a side folder.

    • Otherwise they will overtake your inbox.  By the way, just selecting and moving those 120+ emails a day into the trash is unnecessarily eating up your valuable time. Save yourself the time and trouble. Don’t sort. Don’t click. Don’t scan and re-read.  Save your time and write the rule.
  3. Read what Merlin Mann has to say about getting through email and emptying your inbox.

  4. Turn off your email. 

    • This is something you’ll see in the Merlin Mann message as well. Turn it off!! Turn off email (and Yahoo Messenger, and Skype, and all the rest of the distractions) during part of your day and be free of it. You can’t keep it off forever, but at least give yourself a set amount of time each morning and afternoon where you do NOT have this in front of you. You may be surprised how much you can focus on other tasks without these tools “tugging” at your attention.

About the author: Kay Ethier ( is many things—including a structured documentation specialist, a frequent speaker at industry events, a conference organizer, and author of numerous books (including the recently released XML: Problem, Design, Solution with Mitch Amiano, Conrad D’Cruz, and Michael D. Thomas). Kay runs Bright Path Solutions, a successful publishing solutions consultancy, as well as Above and Beyond Language Learning, a firm dedicated to the development of high quality, well designed language learning tools.