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  • Goldie Hartford

Getting and staying organized – strategies from experience - Part 1

To keep this post from being super overwhelming I'm writing it in 2 blogs posts (part 1 = email, part 2 = all other)


Do you look at your inbox and feel like you’re drowning in it?

Do you feel like you’re in non-stop meetings and simply can’t get a break to do your actual work?

Do you have a mountain of things to do but simply don’t know where to start?


We live in a digital age where meeting requests, emails, social media notifications, texts, phone calls, and adhoc requests are like a runaway train taking over our lives. But what if we could put the brakes on that train and take over the role of the train conductor! It can be done – I swear – but not without commitment and diligence.

Below are strategies that I use daily, and they work!

  1. Email management

  • First, I give you permission to declare inbox bankruptcy with your email. DO IT! Wipe everything out and start fresh. You may be thinking – what if I miss something or that all important meeting? Ok, then do this, sort your inbox and look for anything from someone that simply should not be missed (i.e. your boss, CEO, payroll, and any items marked with the big red exclamation mark) – now delete everything but those items. Believe me, if you miss anything you will be reached out to again by people. Beside, you actually don’t have time to go through everything anyway – so whether it sits in the inbox or goes into bankruptcy – it’s not getting read!

  • Next, if you use a mail program like Outlook setup the categories to be Priority 1 (due asap), Priority 2 (due within the next 7-10 days) and Priority 3 (due beyond 10 days or when you have time). If there are a couple of others you really must set up do so, but do not setup too many otherwise it will become overwhelming and too difficult to manage.

  • In your email folder structure, setup folders for projects or key initiatives you are involved in.

  • Create a check list that has the following questions (for when you receive an email)

    • Is this a critical incident or notification (meaning is something critical happening that is disastrous to your dept. or organization).

      • If yes, then all other stuff stops and you deal with it.

    • Is this about a major project?

      • If yes

        • Is it information only or a call to action?

        • If it’s info only – scan and file it in the folder you created (previous point).

        • Do you need to action something?

        • When is the due date? (If it doesn’t say, ask for a due date)

        • Do I need to talk to someone in order to complete the action?

          • If you don’t, answer it and be done with it.

          • If you do, schedule a few minutes with them – and place on the to do list or assign it Category 1,2,3.

      • If NOT

        • Is it information only? If it is, file it and be done with it.

        • If it’s a call to action

          • Do you have the info to answer/complete?

          • If Yes then answer it then or place it in Category 1,2,3.

          • What’s the deadline (if not stated, ask for it) and place it in Category 1,2,3 to be addressed appropriately.

  • Is it people related?

    • If Yes, what will happen if I don’t answer this now?

    • What’s the benefit if I do it now?

    • Act accordingly to your responses to the previous questions.

There are many systems you can consider, the one outlined is simply what works best for me. Experiment and use the tools available to you, what’s important is that you do something to manage it and not let the email accumulate!


See part 2 for tips on meetings, tracking & scheduling action items, laser focusing, and white space.


If you found this article helpful it would be wonderful of you to share it with other leaders.


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