Email Triage

I had a gorgeous morning here the other day, working on my computer on the front porch. Trying to catch up a bit, clean up my inbox and figure out what’s next. I’ve been operating on getting the necessities taken care of for months – which means that I’ve been doing email triage for an endless number of weeks.

You’ve got mail! Do you do email triage on the regular?

Do you do that? Just scan your email for the important stuff, and then hope to catch up later?

I call that email triage – you keep up with the big things and hope nothing falls through.

How do you organize your email? I go through my “promotions” folder about once a month or every couple months, and delete all of the emails I get from the various retailers that I like to follow. You never know when they might have a sale at the right time for whatever you might need in a given week, right?

Mostly, everything else is in the main folder, and I don’t bother to sort into any detailed system anymore. I used to. When I didn’t have three kids and was a completely organized soul, I had a whole system for keeping emails sorted into folders for all of the various projects and organizations I am a part of. Now? That just seems like extra work.

Working from home with kids means being organized – which I am, mostly. Except for email.

My documents folders are sorted and organized, completely. I keep up by client, project, etc. Email is a whole other story – and I live with the email triage on a regular basis. Because, life is busy.

I have been working for myself and from home for almost 13 years. My office is wherever I am, and my phone is my biggest business tool. Thus, email triage.

So, this morning I am cleaning out email, trying to go further than the first few pages of the inbox, and clear out anything that I really don’t need. It’s like spring cleaning for the email. Necessary, but nobody does it more than once a year (if even then).

Do you have other aspects of your life that you treat like email triage? What else do we do in life that we need to just take on one thing at a time, and only focus on the most important things?

I feel like I’ve been working up to this comparison for the last few weeks – I talked last week about Dropping the Ball on housework. Isn’t that a form of email triage? I have done the absolute needful at home, but let some other things go. And it’s ok!

Do you juggle life a bit like email triage?

A few weeks ago, I talked about Life with Kids. Accidents happen, life gives us surprises, and we just keep going. Since then, our youngest broke her arm at soccer practice…more Adventures in Parenting for us.

As parents, we triage our life a lot. Moms especially (dads do this too, but I think moms are the ultimate multi-taskers) take on a lot of things and juggle all the schedules, keep track of where and when the kids are supposed to be different places. We get the texts about changes to the schedules, and have to sort out the after school taxi routine to get everyone there on time.

While I’m working through my email inbox today, I realize I’ve missed a few podcasts, some primers on SEO and a few Zoom meetings I could have joined on random topics of interest. None of them were earth-shattering important, and while I could have done one or two of those extra things, I was probably busy with something else, helping another member of my family with the plethora of things we all do on the day to day.

So, at the end of it all, email triage works for me. I may never get to the bottom of my inbox – and my teenager freaks out when she sees the number of unread messages I have on the regular – but that doesn’t bother me.

As a busy working mom of three kids with a wide age range, I juggle life and do what I need to do each and every day to get things done. I don’t do all the things all the time, and I do drop a few balls along the way.

Last year, when we were still in the thick of the lockdown and I was contemplating my choices and thankful to have worked from home for a very long time, I talked about the big topic of work/life balance and the question: Can we do it all? My answer then was that yes, absolutely moms can do and have it all – but we need help.

My answer to juggling all the things and having as much of the “all” as I can get? Email triage. And taking on one thing at a time. Also, knowing that I have a huge network of other moms and family to call on to help me with the pickups and drop offs, random date nights or events, and all the things.

Take advantage of your network. Let go of the things you can’t control (like the number of emails that come in). Love your kids and family, take on one thing at a time, and enjoy the sunshine when a nice day comes along.

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