Email Triage: What it is and how it can help you
To be honest, I don’t know exactly where I first read the term “email triage” before—and if it was you who coined the term, please let me know in the comments and I’ll edit this post—but when I read that term, I realized that I was performing email triage for a very long time without actually having a name or term for the process.
It’s an extremely useful technique for dealing with the vast amounts of both work and personal email that comes in on a daily basis but before I go into detail about what email triage is and how it can help you too, let’s first start by defining the term “triage”:
1 a: the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients and especially battle and disaster victims according to a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors b: the sorting of patients (as in an emergency room) according to the urgency of their need for care
2: the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success
When I read that above definition in terms of “email triage”, here is what it says to me: “the sorting of an allocation of treatment to emails… according to a system of priorities designed to maximize success in the shortest time period”.
Now I’ll detail how I use email triage with the hope that you see a use for this technique in your dealings with both work and personal emails to “maximize email success in the shortest time period”.
On Sunday evenings, I log onto my work email from home to take a peak at my inbox and perform my initial round of email triage so I don’t feel caught off guard come Monday morning bright and early when I boot up my computer at work. In this round of triage, I go through and delete any emails that I’ve signed up to have delivered to me daily like The New York Times since I usually keep up with the news over the weekend.
Then I quickly scan through for any emails from my boss as action items for the upcoming week. It’s not that I’m going to actually do anything with these emails, just make myself aware of them for the week ahead. Then, I go through the number of Microsoft Outlook invites that are sprinkled throughout and delete the ones that I can and leave the ones that need to be accepted on Monday morning in my inbox.
Lastly, I familiarize myself with which emails deserve priority. When I log out, I am familiar with what’s happening and have my inbox in tip top shape to tackle the following Monday morning. Two of the best benefits of dealing with my work email in this fashion is that I’m not stressed out come Monday morning and I’m on top of any questions my boss has first thing in the morning.
Email triage has also crept into my personal email habits which allows me to label emails and keep them as either read or un-read so I know what I need to get to and what can be left for when there is a break in the day… again, reducing my stress—even personal email can be stressful—and keeping me on my game with email communication.
What about you?... how do you handle the massive amounts of email you get on a daily basis?
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