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5 Tips to Manage Your Inbox

It happens to all of us and no matter how hard we try to stop it, they just keep coming.  You sit at your desk, intent on completing a certain number of tasks done before lunch.  But, then you notice the pop-ups on your screen.  As soon as you see them, you click on them.  FOMO?  Perhaps.  Instant gratification?  Who knows!  What you do know is that what you planned to accomplish before lunch, has not even been started.  Suddenly, you are going down the inbox rabbit hole.

Emails can derail the best laid plans.  I know that during the course of my day, I may get upwards of 100 emails a day.  Some people get more or less but regardless of the amount, you must be able to managed them so that they do not manage you.  In order to be successful during your work day, I want to share my top five tips for managing your inbox for success.

Tip #1

Create Rules

email email email inspiration email tips email marketing newsletter email marketing check your email email list unsubscribe emailNow, where I work and anywhere I have worked, I have always used Microsoft Outlook.  One of the great features about using Outlook is its ability to allow you to create rules.  These rules send  designated emails by Sender, Subject or Keyword directly into a specified folder.  This is truly important because many times in business, you may end up on many list serves.  Although these include important industry information, they are not crucial to your day to day.  Do not let these types of emails clog up your inbox.  Move them right along into a specified folder.  Then, when you want or need to reference that newsletter or publication, it is there waiting for you.

Tip #2

Create Folders

Yes- I know that you can search all of your folders for keywords but bear with me.  The main reason for these folders: see Tip #1.  These folders will allow you to create rules so that certain emails will bypass your inbox altogether.  This can be very helpful in maintaining control over your inbox.  Now, what I am not saying is go overboard with your folders.  You do not want to create a folder for every person that sends you an email.  That would be a waste of time and completely counterproductive.

Breaking these folders down to what makes sense to you will help you manage your inbox and also cut the time a search takes when looking for information.  The method I use for creating folders is based on my interaction with the person or business sending.  Anyone reporting to me is placed in one folder while anyone I report to is in another.  I create folders by project- large projects only.  Another folder is called ‘Publications’.  This is where I place any automated emails or newsletters.  Company generated reports are automated to go to ‘Reports’.  Original huh?  I also have a folder for years.  This corrals everything so that my searches are quicker.  I keep about 3 months of emails in my inbox because those usually include projects I am working on and it just makes it handy.

Tip #3

Use your out of office

That’s right.  Use it when you are on vacation but also use it even when you are not on vacation!  Having your email constantly up and active, leads to the rabbit hole I spoke about earlier.  Once email email email inspiration email tips email marketing newsletter email marketing check your email email list unsubscribe emailyou see the pop up, how many times do you immediately click on it?  This habit not only interrupts what you are currently working on but it also interrupts your train of thought, your work flow, and ultimately will lead to you being non productive.  So put an out of office on your email at regularly scheduled times every day.

A simple message like “Thank you for the email.  I am currently in the office working on a project.  I will be checking and addressing emails during the following times:_________.  If this is an emergency, I may be reached at the following extension:__________.”  This way, the person sending knows that you have received the email and you will be working on the request during the allocated times.  Therefore, they won’t expect an immediate answer.  Additionally, if there is an emergency, you are able to be reached.  You will find this practice allows you to concentrate on the tasks at hand without interruption.  Additionally, as people start to type an email to you and see your out of office, they may rethink the email.  This will help decrease the volume as people subconsciously set a higher bar for actually sending that email.

Tip #4

Unsubscribe

How to declutter your email inbox including email organization, inbox posts, inbox ideas, and inbox management How to declutter your email inbox including email organization, inbox posts, inbox ideas, and inbox management How to declutter your email inbox including email organization, inbox posts, inbox ideas, and inbox management How to declutter your email inbox including email organization, inbox posts, inbox ideas, and inbox management

Yes. Just go ahead and hit that button.  When we live in such an information rich society, it can easily happen that we get overwhelmed with too many electronic publications.  Every time we turn around there is another list serve that send us emails as frequent as every day.  Now, this is not to say unsubscribe from all newsletters or list serves.  However, be very cognizant of the value they bring to your daily operations.  Ask yourself a few key questions.

  1. Does this publication have up to date information relevant to the current field I am in?
    1. if the answer is no, rethink your subscription
  2. Does this publication add value to my current business by way of best practices or trends?
    1. if the answer is no because the information is dated and not validated practice, rethink your subscription
  3. Is this publication filled with sales flyers and/or sponsored by one particular company?
    1. if this answer is yes and it is just a way for that company to tout more of their products only, rethink your subscription

Ultimately, you have to be able to discern the value that these types of emails bring to your day to day career.  Once you isolate the subscriptions you want to keep, create that folder from tip #2.  Once that folder is created, send your subscription emails there so that your inbox does not get cluttered.  Here, the information will remain accessible to you.

Tip #5

Dump the zero inbox unicorn

Yep.  Mic drop.  I know this does go against a lot of people’s advice.  I will admit when this advice came out, I tried it.  I really did.  However, (insert voice of French narrator from SpongeBob)  2 hours later, after clicking, reading, moving, answering, and stressing, I managed to get through about 20 emails.  Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration but seriously I didn’t get far and I lost 2 hours of my life chasing that unicorn.  That’s when I decided to just create folders, unsubscribe and use the other tips I am writing about.  The stress of a zero inbox is immense.  Nobody talks about that part.  I mean when I wake up in the morning, there are times I already have 15 emails.  That does not set me up for a successful start to the day.  Ditch that unicorn and save yourself some stress.

 

There are so many ways to manage your inbox and these are just a few that I employ on a regular basis to help me.  These help me stay on track so that I am more productive and can balance my work day better.  If you use Outlook, I hope you give these a try.  What are some of your tricks in regards to emails?  Share them in the comments below..

 

 


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Quick, One-Day Flight: What’s in My Work Bag

Traveling for work is something I have been doing for many years.  I actually love it.  Please don’t tell the hubs!  Outwardly, I whine and complain but inside I am giddy and excited to dodge my regular household chores!  I truly believe it makes me a better person.  At least, its what I tell myself and the hubs.  It allows me to meet new people, see new places and forces me to spend some serious time alone with my thoughts and come up with ideas like this blog!  For me, one of the harder trips to pack for are the quick ones where you fly out early in the AM and return by night.  I anticipate a flurry of activities with no real down time- except during the flight.  As I go through and systematically pack my bag, I am sharing with you what’s in my work bag.

The Bag

Since I am flying out early int he AM and returning the same day, I really do not need to pack very much.  Completely different story if I am spending a night or two!  This is why I will be carrying my Henri Bendel Gotham Tote.  It is made out of beautiful, black pebbled leather with gold hardware.  It has a brown silken lining with several pockets – including 2 that are zippered.  Oh and the smell: leather!  It’s just divine.  Although this bag was from a collection a few years back and no longer available, I have linked a similar tote with the same beautiful pebbled leather.  This is the best work bag I have ever purchased.  I used to buy the ones you see at TJ Max and it would last me about 2 months (if I was lucky) before strings would fray, zippers would break, or the “leather” would crack.  That does not look very professional.  I would then have to start searching for another bag all over again.

I decided to go all in and make an investment in my bag rationalizing that the life span of  Henri Bendel at full use should be about 3 years before any major flaws occurred.  Mathematically, that comes out to .59 cents a day! The investment made total sense.  A cheap bag shows wear after 2 months and would cost about .75 cents per day.  Did I tell you that I can rationalize anything?

Pro Tip

One thing I will use to create additional organization within my bag will be the Ipsy bags I used to receive with my subscription box.  They are just the right size to contain a lot of different necessities so that you stay organized, stylish, and discreet.  I have one to hold my cords and power-banks. One will also hold feminine products and the other will hold a variety of items that I may need to freshen up during the day.  These little bags are amazing in all of their potential uses.

The Notebook

I suggest you invest in a really good notebook.  When in meetings, there is always something you may need to write down and it shows that you are prepared.  There is nothing worse than being in a meeting and looking unprepared by asking for a pen or paper.  For my notebook, I chose the Circa line from Levenger.  Shown is my Bomber Jacket Circa made from beautiful soft-grain leather upon which I have my name stamped on the front cover.  Oh and the leather smell!  The paper is amazingly thick (no ink bleed through) and I love the versatility of the various types of note-taking formats available.

 

What Else will my Gotham Tote Contain

Again, since this is such a short business trip, I will pack very minimally.  Here is the full list:

  • Good Vibes Only Mini Bag
    • Feminine products (you just never know)
  • Black / Gold Mini Bag
    • Tresemme Hair spray
    • The Body Shoppe Hand Cream in Almond Milk & Honey
    • Bath and Body Works Hand Sanitizer
    • Soap & Glory Extreme Plump Lip Gloss
      • It does feel really weird when applied but it gives a little bit of pucker to the lips
    • Rimmel’s Kate Moss lipstick in the color 08 pink
      • It gives me just a touch of color
    • Covergirl Tru Blend Face Powder
      • This is a matt finish that does not look cakey
      • It will help me look refreshed and not oily after my flight
    • Wet Ones
      • You never know
    • Hair ties and bobby pins
      • in case my hair is extra crazy
  • Blue/Orange Mini Bag
    • Cube
    • lightning cable/earbuds
    • Charger
      • I really like the style pictured because I can plug my phone into it and  I don’t have to fumble with a cord or second device as it is all attached
  • Food
  • Gum
    • Not pictured and always needed

So, as you can see, I will only be bringing the necessities on this trip.  I will not need my laptop or iPad so I am going to keep it as light as possible.  What are your go-to necessities on a short day trip for work?  Let me know in the comments!

Personalize Your Office Space

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of hours the average American worker spent at the office in 2016 was 8.3 hours.  That’s a significant portion of one’s day to be away from home and family.  So, when we are at work, why not make it a great space to be in?  Make it your space.  There’s nothing wrong with bringing a small touch of personal style to your office space.  Some people may argue that it is unprofessional but I disagree.  There are days I may spend up to 10 or 12 hours in my office space.  On those days I appreciate some of my own style being reflected around me.  It reminds me of my purpose and reminds me of what is waiting for me at home.

I am certainly not suggesting you display your bachelorette pictures or pictures of you downing a few adult beverages at your last concert. That would be too personal and probably cross that line of professionalism.  What I am saying is that some personalization is important for several reasons.  First, so that people to understand that you are human too.  You have a life outside of work, interests outside of work, and you are more than what’s enclosed in that office.  Second, it allows you to bring your why to work- everyday.  Third, especially for me,  it is a way I can incorporate a calm ambiance in the midst of any stressful day.  Here are a few ways I achieved this.

Lighting

We all know the harsh reality of office lighting.  It can be extremely bright and unforgiving.  Vivian Giang recently wrote a piece on the color of lighting and how if effects productivity.  It discusses how warm lighting may be more comforting and relaxing.  Under harsh office lights, I often found myself with headaches instead of being more productive as noted in the article.  The bright lighting was everywhere- there was no escape.  I read about the benefits of salt lamps and decided to purchase one for myself.  While I cannot attest to the flow of positive ions (one of the benefits of a salt lamp), I can attest to the fact that this lamp gave off the most beautiful amber glow.  It is the calm in the storm of my day and often becomes a conversation piece as many comment on how beautiful it is.  Although this cannot be the only source of light in your office space, it certainly can be the most beautiful!

Artwork

Just as artwork is an expression of the artist, it is also an expression of the person who chooses to display and cherish it.  Although I love inspirational quotes and scenery, what I really love to hang are framed artwork from my kids.  To the right are a few pieces I have hung up over the years.  Here are the stories:

My son was studying Picasso in kindergarten- many years ago.  He happened to bring this one home and I fell in love with it.  The frame was one that I happened upon at my parents house.  My Dad had made it for something many years prior my Son’s rendition of Waterlilies.  Back then, Michaels wasn’t really a thing so I just bought a white foam board, cut out the middle and attached the painting to the backside of it.  Close up, you definitely can tell my cut lines weren’t straight but every piece of it was hand made.

My daughter’s art piece stemmed from a Girl Scout project.  Birch trees are just so beautiful with their white bark.  However, where I live, the snow does quite a number on them and they usually do end up being as bent over as the one’s in my daughter’s picture.  With this picture, my husband made the frame.  He took the time to plane, cut, stain, and create the gorgeous frame this picture sits in.

Every-time I look at these, it helps me get through my day.  I remember the stories that go along with each of the pieces.

Essential Oil Diffuser

I have often heard that certain scents can emit different emotions and feelings.  When looking for houses, I watched a lot of HGTV.  I often heard them discuss burning cookie scented candles or baking bread during open houses.  This way, the buyers walk into a warm, comforting, and subliminally homey place.  Well, this same concept can be transferred to your office space too.  While I do not promote baking bread or cookies in your office (although it would make you popular) unless you are a baker, it would probably be frowned upon.  What I am saying is that bringing certain scents in the form of essential oils and a diffuser can help you personalize your office space.  It can make it more inviting and relaxing not to mention all of the other benefits touted.

What I and many others have found is that the essential oils can change according to the needs of my day.  If I am busy with a project, I may want to focus.  So I will use citrus based scents like orange or lemon.  If I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed, I may reach for the lavender.  This scent is well known to relax- think baby wash.  On hand, I keep a collection of blends that will help me create a calming atmosphere or an atmosphere that will energize me and anyone I am working with.   While the various benefits of essential oils are not the point of this post, it is certainly another tool to help you personalize your office space without being too over the top.

Greenery

Another way to also add some personalization is to incorporate some greenery into your space.  Let’s face it, offices can often be a cold place.  I don’t mean temperature cold but feeling wise.  Harsh lighting, bland walls, etc.. Having some type of plant can help bring some of the outdoors in and warm up your space.  Personally, I like small, fake plants. Ones that look realistic.  For me, I find that live plants are very difficult to maintain- even in my home.  Vacations, long weekends, work travel, and just plain forgetting to water a live plant can kill it easily.  Your once beautiful plant can quickly turn dry and brittle.  That does not help enhance your office at all.  I find a few statement pieces get the trick done without alot of effort.

 

As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to bring just a little bit of personalization to your office space.  It is possible to bring in the personality and still maintain a professional vibe to your work area.  There are many other ideas but these are just a few of my go to items.  Office supplies also comes to mind but that will be a separate blog post- actually that would potentially be several posts!

So tell me how you bring your personality into your space?

Below are links to the products (or like products) mentioned:

Please note, the above links are affiliate links.  You will not pay extra for using these links but I may receive a small commission with your purchase.

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Finding Your Balance

The Balance of Work-life & Home-life

Sometimes in life, you may suddenly realize a whirlwind around you.  Everything is happening so fast you are feeling out of control.  You are spinning on the wheel of life and the spinner is starting to go faster than you can keep up.  Sooner or later, one of two things will happen.  You will either keep pace with the wheel or the wheel will oust you.  Most likely, it will be the latter.  It’s not for a lack of trying but in all honestly, life nowadays happens at the speed of light.  Whether we are talking work-life, home-life or both, it’s coming fast and furious.

Has this ever happened to you?  It certainly has happened to me.  I spent a lot of time running to work, running home, running here and running there.  So much so that I can honestly say, I felt such intense pressure and disappointment.   I mean, is this it? Is this what I have been working so hard to accomplish?  What was I thinking!  My work-life out-balanced my home-life significantly.  Commuting time, early meetings, late meetings, and travel.  This delicate balance between work-life and home-life was thrown off and homeostasis was nowhere to be found.  I would run home every night, cook a late supper, clean up, put my daughter to bed and then sit catatonic on the couch.  I would have offers of help but I wanted to somehow feel as though i was contributing to the household.

My Why

While I was sitting there attempting to be part of the family, my mind would race far away.  What did I forget?  What do I have to prepare for tomorrow?  What disaster am I walking into tomorrow? Consumed.  Catatonic.  Cathartic.  Just a few words that come to mind.  This was not sustainable for anyone- especially me.

Finally, a break came whether I liked it or not, whether I agreed with it or not.  Perhaps, it was the best thing for me.  Overtime, I have realized that I needed to re-evaluate my goal and my purpose.  I need to understand that I have a self-worth and I must be able to maintain a better balance.  I have to do it for me and for my family.  Yes, there are busy seasons of work and of home, but overall these two parts of us working Moms (and Dads) need to be able to come together for the benefit of all- including ourselves.  Recognizing this is the first step- perhaps the most important step.

I wanted to write my blog as a journey through this process and share with you what I have learned and what I continue to learn on a daily basis.  Please join me.

Welcome to my Guide!

 

 

 

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