Have you got the email habit?

So, who’s in charge of your email in-box?

You are.

Who gets to decide when you look in there?

You do.

It’s as simple as that. Interrupting what you’re doing to check emails breaks your thought flow and throws your planning out of kilter. You also allow yourself to get caught up in the idea that emails, work and life are somehow out of your control. That things happen to you, rather than you happen to things.

Three steps, three times a day

I encourage third sector coaching clients and participants on my Taming Time training to get into the habit of checking emails three times a day. Once in the morning. (But not first thing, please!!). Once before/after lunch. And once later in the afternoon.

I suggest they take a three-step approach – scan, sort and schedule.

If you do the same, this three-step approach will revolutionise the way you handle your in-box. You’ll feel 100% more in control, your in-box will frequently be empty, and you’ll save loads of time not searching through emails. green plastic basket

The three steps

Scan Open your in-box (which ideally is empty save what has arrived since you last opened it. See from ‘oh no’ to zero for how to get started with this). Take a quick look at what’s in there.


1. Delete any emails which are junk, irrelevant or not needed.

2. Do any new action which takes two minutes or less. Then file each email into a folder, if it needs keeping. If you don’t finish all your two-minute actions and you really don’t have time, drag these email into @Action. (See get organised with your emails for how to set up dedicated Project and @Action folders.)

3. Drag all other emails into an appropriate folder. Something needs doing? Put it in @Action. Something to read? Into @Read.

Your in-box will now be empty again.

Schedule Look in your @Action folder. Note down the first, next action needed in response to each new email and schedule these into your diary or planner. It may be now, later today or even next Tuesday afternoon. But make sure you schedule it.

That’s it.

Don’t forget to follow up. Work created via your emails is now in your usual daily or weekly planning system. When the time comes, do the action, and move the email out of @Action into its Project folder if you need to keep it.

It’s not easy, but it’s not rocket science either. All you need is commitment to creating and then sticking with a new habit. It’s all helped along by a good dash of old-fashioned email etiquette which I’ll explore in a later blog.


 If you would like to talk to me about how my coaching or Taming Time training can help your third sector organisation be more productive, drop me an email at katie@be-the-change.org.uk or call me on 0208 772 7808 for a chat.