EmailThink carefully and answer this question: who is in charge…you or your inbox?
If you answered that your inbox is undeniably the one in charge, you’re quite typical.

The majority of paralegals tell me that their email inboxes are out of control. Does it make you feel any better to know you have lots of company? Probably not – it is frustrating when you let your email messages accumulate to the point where you don’t even want to open them.

Here are two simple tips for taking control of your email system:

Become the Email Nazi. When you receive an email message, take immediate action.

  • If you can give a simple answer, do that right away.
  • If the answer will take a while and you do not have time to handle it immediately, flag it or file it so you will remember to take care of it later. (See below for ideas for this step).
  • If someone else can take care of the issue, forward it.
  • If it is junk mail or something you do not need to take action on, delete it. Try to delete junk mail without taking the time to open it.

Remove yourself from unnecessary lists. Take care of the email clutter before it ever hits your inbox by removing yourself from email lists that do not interest you. This particularly applies to merchant email. Also, when you make a purchase be sure to check the box that you do not want further email.

Control the Hodgepodge: Maintain separate email accounts for separate activities. Most of us receive email at just one or two accounts, with everything from personal to business to junk mail flowing into them. You really need different accounts for different purposes.

It is easy to set up several accounts at www.gmail.com and (the best part) there is no cost. While Yahoo and Hotmail are also f’ree services, I do not recommend you use them for professional email.

The method for maintaining the separate accounts is simple when you create the following:

Business Accounts

Work Account. You may already have this account where you work. Use it for business matters only and do not mix it with your personal email. (Ethics tip: A really good reason for not mixing these accounts is that under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, your personal email may be discoverable if it is part of a business account that is subject to discovery – and vice versa).

Business Miscellaneous Account. This is the account you use to sign up for newsletters, offers, and other interesting but non-essential email. If you do not get around to reading these messages, you can simply delete them when they are outdated. Trust me, your life will not change if you do not get around to them.

Personal Accounts

Personal account No. 1. Use this account for communicating with friends and family.

Personal Account No. 2. This is the account you use when you order products and receive order confirmations. Once a month, delete anything you do not need.

Personal account No. 3. This account is not totally necessary but can be very helpful, especially when you set up relevant subfolders. It is basically a reminder system. Use it to copy yourself with mail that requires action so that you can either remember to take action OR follow-up on actions someone else should take. Yes, you could use your sent mail folder for this purpose but there are no subfolders there to keep you organized.

My request to you: Take some time over the weekend to set up your separate email accounts. It will be time well spent. You will be better organized and less stressed when you let your email inbox know who’s boss.

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© 2012 Vicki Voisin, Inc.  Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it:

Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She is the co-author of The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success. Vicki publishes Paralegal Strategies, a weekly e-newsletter for paralegals, and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network.

More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com where subscribers receive Vicki’s 151 Tips for Your Career Success.