How to turn your email into the best personal assistant

Did you know that you have personal assistant? If not, you two should meet. Right now.

That personal assistant is your email program.

You are probably shaking your head or rolling your eyes in disbelief wondering if you just read the last sentence correctly. Is it even conceivable that your email program could ever be that helpful, let alone, your personal assistant? Your inbox is a constant source of angst and frustration. It creates work for you – a lot of work. It certainly does not reduce your workload like a personal assistant.

I want you to start to think about your email program differently – especially as we gear up for a busy, end of year, flood of emails. What if your inbox could actually reduce your workload? What if it could be your personal assistant?

In writing my book, Work Simply, I realized that people were significantly underutilizing the technology tools available to them in their email programs. They were overlooking the fact that their email programs are designed to support and assist them in completing work and accomplishing goals.

So, I am asking you to suspend your disbelief about the capabilities of your email program. (Suspend your belief at least until you have finished reading this post.) Because today is the day that you meet your new personal assistant.

Let me get you two re-acquainted; let me show you what your assistant can do for you.

ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Even an exemplary personal assistant cannot read your mind. Neither can your inbox. It is time to starting asking what your email program can do for you instead of just assuming that all it can do is consume hours of your day. You are actually in control. Start asking your email platform to do more for you. It can automatically file your messages, send automated responses and schedule tasks. If you want it do something and you are not sure if it can, just ask. Ask Google. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the answer is most likely yes. As my former sales manager told me, if you don’t ask, you are guaranteed a no. If you ask, you have a 50% chance of a yes. Go for the yes. Ask your email program for what you need.

HALT INTERRUPTIONS.

Assistants are gatekeepers. They do not allow interruptions. Why shouldn’t your inbox also be a gatekeeper? Use AwayFind an application that works across email platforms. It will halt your daily barrage of email notifications, except for the ones that include senders and keywords you designate as urgent. Also, turn off all of the new message alerts – those pings, buzzes, and pop ups that interrupt you. You do not have to be interrupted. Let your assistant halt interruptions.

SCHEDULE YOUR MEETINGS.

Assistants manage calendars. Ask your email program to help you schedule your meetings. Eliminate the back and forth emails trying to determine a time to meet. Click on the meeting shortcut icon (available in Outlook and Outlook for Mac) and immediately turn that email into a meeting request. Now, you will have access to that person’s calendar (if they shared it) and can schedule the meeting. As an added bonus, the text of the original email is pasted into the body of the meeting request so everyone has background information on the meeting.

REMIND YOU OF YOUR PENDING REQUESTS.

Assistants help you keep track of all of your open tasks and pending requests. Ask your email program to remind you of the requests you have made via email where you are waiting on a response. Automate your follow up by setting up and using the ‘waiting for’ rule.

Here’s how it works: When you send an email where you need a response from the recipient, cc yourself on that email. That email will then be automatically saved in a folder you have designated for all of your follow ups. As new messages are automatically added to this folder, the numeral indicating how many messages are in the folder will become bold. No longer will you spend hours searching through sent messages or trying to remember if you have followed up on your open requests. Your personal assistant will remind you.

PRIORITIZE INCOMING MESSAGES.

Assistants support you in prioritizing messages. Let your email program prioritize your incoming messages. Color code your incoming message by sender priority. For example, you might color code your manager red, your top clients in green and turn the messages where you are cc:ed to light gray. So, when you open your inbox, you can quickly scan looking for the most urgent messages, those from your manager or key clients.

Surprised? You do actually have a personal assistant. And that assistant is readily accessible – right at your fingertips.

It’s time you realized that your email program can do more for you. So, let it. Then, you can get back to doing what you do best.

WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?

• Google one action you wish your email program could perform for you. Ask for what you need. If you don’t ask, you will not receive.

• Download Away. Find and turn off all of the new email message alerts.

• Set up custom rules. Ask for what you need. If you don’t ask, you will not receive.

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