Top 3 Steps To Prioritise 700+ Emails A Week (As a Consultant) #7

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As a manager in Consulting with a few parallel running projects, I receive over 700 emails a week.


The process that I created early on in my career is serving me well. As it helps me to prioritise my work stack and reduce noise.

I Broadly Follow These 3 Principles (Inspired By Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Workweek):

#1 Eliminating noise before delegating


#2 Prioritising by categorising


#3 Be efficient by batching


Let’s deep dive into each of these principles.

#1 Eliminating noise before delegating

A significant number of items from my inbox will be delegated to my team members. But it’s important to eliminate the noise before you delegate. Otherwise, you’ll waste your teams’ time.


Elimination can be carried out in a few ways:


  • Automate deletion from known email address/junk such as weekly newsletters from your old team. In short, emails where no action needs to be taken.


  • Automate filing away emails that don’t require action, again from known email addresses. You may be cc’d into emails; which you may want to refer to in the future.


  • Group by subject and delete the unnecessary emails from the email threads.

After this step, your inbox will be left with emails that need some kind of action.

More categories will lead to ambiguity and impact your productivity.💭

#2 Prioritising by categorising

Like everyone I know, I have an email filing system with a folder structure. This is to be able to efficiently retrieve an email, not for prioritising.


Many people do not tend to use “Categories” on Outlook or Tags/Flags in other mailing systems.


I have 4 categories to help me prioritise the emails in my inbox:


Client Work coloured red – As a consultant, there’s nothing more important than the emails received from the client, requesting information or updates.


Internal Work for Client coloured amber – This category is when the internal team needs support relating to client work.


Internal non-client work coloured green – This category is when the internal team need support for non-client related work, things like white papers, internal events, thought leadership etc.


Others tagged coloured grey  – This is a catch-all category for things that need a response but that do not neatly fall into any of the above.


Gestalt principles of “Similarity” state that if objects or units look similar to one another, then they will be visually perceived as part of a group hence the usage of colour in this.


You should also group by “Categories” once they’ve been categorised.


Try and keep the categories to a manageable number, avoid the Grey category for catch-all if possible.


More categories will lead to ambiguity and impact your productivity.


After completing this step, you’re now left with a categorised list of emails with noise filtered out.

#3 Be efficient by batching

Do you do your laundry one clothing item at a time? I hope not!


Allocate time in the day to batch respond to your emails.


The way to do this is as follows:


  • Check your emails, twice a day at an allocated time and carry out step #1 & #2


  • Respond to emails according to the priority that you’ve set above. The outcome will either be a delegation to a team member or a direct response to the sender.


  • Each Friday or on another allocated day of your choice, deal with items in Green and Grey.


  • Turn off email notifications on your laptop and your phone. So you can channel your attention to the task at hand.

If you find yourself getting dragged into your inbox throughout the day and in between meetings, remember the following:


  • Someone’s “need an urgent response” may not necessarily be the best use of your time. If it is truly urgent, they’ll give you a call.


  • An aggravating email will not lead you to respond in anger if you’re answering hours later.


  • Believe me, when I say this, some issues never needed your help to start with. By the time you get round to responding, the issue will have resolved itself.


Using this method, you should only be left with emails in your inbox, that are prioritised and need some kind of action.


I hope this blog has been insightful in explaining my 3-step process of managing your inbox. And has also helped answer some of your questions.


If you’d like to be kept informed of more content like this, subscribe to my newsletter.


Feel free to reach out to my email [email protected], if you have some feedback or just want to say hello!


Also, check out my other blog on The Top 3 Reasons Why Continuous Improvement Is Better Than Delayed Perfection


And what is the one thing you have learnt from this blog?

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Hanzala Qureshi

Hanzala Qureshi

I’m a digital consultant at a leading consultancy firm. I mostly spend my life working on complex data projects. On this website I document my journey in consulting and thoughts on data & emerging technologies.

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