How many messages are in your inbox right now? Between home and work accounts, you probably have more messages than you care to admit, and most of them are probably outdated, unimportant or of little value to you. So why are they cluttering up your virtual space and choking out the messages that are important to you? Statistics compiled by Radicati Group from February 2015 estimate the number of e-mails send per day in 2015 to be approximately 205 billion. That means that there are almost 2.4 million messages sent every second and almost 74 trillion per year. No wonder your inboxes are stuffed with missives from friends, family members, clients, suppliers, marketers and spam. If you feel like you're drowning in virtual "stuff", you're not alone.
But there is a way to manage all these messages. About 15 years ago, I started using a 5D system to manage my inbox. At the time (we're talking turn of the century!) I was getting about 10 to 15 messages a day and needed a way to keep on top of them. Since then, the system has proven effective in managing the dozens of e-mails that arrive addressed to me daily. It's simple, effective and I'm happy to share my 5Ds with you.
Dump: Don't be afraid of the "delete" button. Get ruthless and clear out anything you don't really need or want. We get tons of reminders, special offers, spam and general junk and for some reason we seem to just keep it hanging around. Why? Dump it and move on.
Do: If the request being made of you is simple, just do it. My benchmark is 2 minutes. If you can find, figure out, solve or reply in under two minutes, then take a page out of Nike's book and just do it. Once the message has been answered, file it or dump it.
Delegate: Are you the right person to respond to a message? If not, then delegate it. Use the "forward" button when it's the right thing to do. We sometimes get caught up in trying to solve every problem, provide all the advice or respond to every request. But if you're not the best person to do so, then help the sender by connecting them with the person best placed to provide the right answer.
Defer: If you are the right person for the job but need to do some research before sending a reply, defer the response. You can send out a quick message to acknowledge the sender's request, but schedule time in your calendar to properly address the question or concern. Blocking off time will allow you to provide the best answer without feeling rushed or under pressure to reply right away. Consider using colour-coding options or other flags to mark messages in your inbox that have been tagged as "deferred".
De-clutter: Do you want all the automated messages that you're receiving? Are they providing value? If not, then consider using the "unsubscribe" button. While it may take an extra minute or two to remove yourself from a mailing list, the lack of unwanted mail will be a welcome change. If you decide later that you're missing out on a something, then click back onto the mailing list. Chances are though that you won't miss the messages that you delete out of habit.