Month folders are created in the inbox ex: August 2007, September 2007, and October 2007.
Each processed email is dragged and dropped in its respective months folder. It immediately allows for a cleaner inbox at the onset of using this system.
Folders can be created to house messages from any mailing lists or listservs. A filter can be enabled so that these messages route directly to those folders.
Emphasis is placed on dealing with the email as soon as it comes in, and either delete, reply and file, or move to the Hold or Action folder.
At resolution, the contents of the Hold or Action folders should be dragged and dropped into their respective months folder. This will happen once you have been using this system for a while, as emails may not get immediately resolved.
Using Tasks in Outlook, Mac iCal, or Toodledo,any email sent to someone asking for a result, is listed as a To Do: ex: WF (waiting for) John Doe on email titled Check Expense Account. When John Doe replies, it is checked off of the To Do list.
You may ask how you would find older emails you are looking for. I am a strong believer in keyword searches. If you are looking for a particular email, just search by that keyword, for example.
Hold and Action folders are incorporated in this system. You (or a virtual assistant) look at your email inbox in the morning, delete the junk, you answer any ones that can be answered quickly, put in Action any hot emails that need to be dealt with in the next 1-2 days, and put in Hold any emails you have already dealt with that you are awaiting answers or results on. Any one of these emails can be found by a keyword search at any given time.
Note: the Action and Hold folders are not for everyone. Some individuals find it easier to keep everything in the inbox until it is deleted, done, or filed in the month folder.
After a certain amount of time is spent between end user and assistant, replies may be drafted by the assistant and left in the inbox for the end user to approve, change or delete. This has been a time saver for most but requires that the assistant have a secure and solid knowledge of the email flow. It is a goal that takes a while to achieve but is certainly a desirable endpoint for the client/Virtual Assistant relationship.
Many emails require a highly personalized reply, so when an assistant is monitoring your email, those emails may be left there for the end user to reply to.
What is somewhat easier to achieve is for the assistant to scan the incoming emails and determine if immediate action is needed. Those can be filed in the Action folder, or, if you are not employing the use of Action folders, they can be flagged in the inbox, or moved to a READ ASAP mail folder.
It is a good idea to cc: your assistant on any replies you make that require a response or a follow up. That way the assistant can add that to your tasks program and check it off when the reply or follow up is completed (see number 6 above).
What are some of your favorite methods of assisting your virtual clients with email management?
Author bio: Taryn Merrick is a Professional Virtual Assistant and Online Business Manager (OBM). As Principal of Merrick Management And Media Services, she has over 20 years of administrative management experience. Taryn works to promote the Virtual Assistant industry and to make it stand out as a true profession of excellence. Her style is easy going, yet precise, with emphasis placed on exceeding customer expectations, client communication and satisfaction.
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