An Email Hygiene Tip Worth Trying.

By: Jen Shoop

A couple years ago, as a part of an incubator program for female founders, we had a guest lecture on organization as an entrepreneur. I was uncharitably skeptical heading in that day, as I pride myself on being exceptionally on the ball and anticipated that the hour would be poorly spent covering things I already intuitively put into practice.

I was wrong — proof that we are never too old for an open mind. I picked up a fantastic tip that helped me orient myself around meaty, strategic work and make the most of my workweek. I’ve written elsewhere about my “bias for action” (euphemism) and the way I often misuse my time by taking care of busywork because it feels as though it’s in the way until it’s ticked off my to-do list. The instructor’s email hygiene tip helped — especially as I am an “inbox zero” kind of gal — and I thought I’d share it here for my fellow Type A Magpies:

  1. Set up a tag in your inbox labeled “Follow Up.”
  2. Draft a “canned response” along the lines of: “Dear ____, Thanks for reaching out. I received your note and will reply by ____. Onward! Yours, Jen.” Save the canned response as “Follow Up.”
  3. Schedule a recurring calendar invite titled “Follow Up” for a few hours one day a week when you know you’ll be in low power mode work-wise. I tended to find Monday afternoons best for this.
  4. As emails arrive in your inbox, skim quickly, tag anything non-urgent as “Follow Up,” send the canned response, and archive.
  5. On your designated “Follow Up” day, post up in a coffee shop, with your favorite playlist, and pull up all emails with the “Follow Up” tag. Power through responding to each and every one.

There was something delightfully satisfying about this process, as it reassured me that nothing would fall through the cracks while empowering me to turn to more important work with a clear head, as I knew that those emails were safely tucked away, to be dealt with in an orderly way later.

I was thinking of this the other day when I told Mr. Magpie that I feel most successful on days that I am either 100% focused on the children or 100% focused on the blog. In truth, such days rarely exist because everything is a mish-mash at the moment given all of the different transitions we’re in the midst of navigating, breastfeeding, and, well, motherhood in general. But when my nanny called in sick the other day and I had to drop everything to focus 100% on the babies, I told him that I actually felt beautifully productive and satisfied at the end of the day because I had to be in mom role the entire day and wasn’t desperately shuffling priorities, which generally makes me feel as though I’m doing everything halfway. This made me realize that there is a lot to be said for designing my day, my space, and my processes in ways that gives me the impression of control and order. Once mini has completed her phase-in to school and has a more reliable schedule, and once we’ve moved (!), I intend to implement more structure in my days, possibly even closing the door to my room to write from 9-1 every single day, without fail, without interruption, and without permitting myself to look at my household/admin to-dos. This might prove impossible, but the ethic behind it will be helpful in clearing my conscience and postponing concerns about grocery shopping and the like until after my work is done. In short, I’d be borrowing the general philosophy behind the email hygiene tip: triage, segment, and tackle at a designated time.

Any other email hygiene or professional organization tips?

Post Scripts.

+An ode to the normal day.

+Love these new jeans. Such a rich, deep black and flattering fit. Probably because I have been spending a lot more time downtown dropping and picking up mini from school, I’m finding myself drawn to all black errythang. Would love to wear those jeans with this chunky knit.

+A cool find for a bookcase or coffee table vignette.

+Dream dress for fall. (Amal Clooney vibes.)

+A mini tech detox worth testing.

+Bought one of these tags for the travel stroller we leave at mini’s school during the day. Such cute designs, and so well-priced!

+This pleated cape dress is to die for. LOVE.

+Such a cute pearl hair accessory.

+Obsessed with these lentil chips.

+These sandals co-designed by Jason Wu are SO precious.

+Chic Amazon discoveries for little ones.

+Turning 35

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4 thoughts on “An Email Hygiene Tip Worth Trying.

  1. Interesting tip! I have a “to do” label that I use in Gmail, and use a similar response (though I don’t keep it on hand, and typically just dash it off as needed) — love the idea of setting aside a block of time to tackle these “to dos”. I also RELIGIOUSLY time-block using iCal (mainly for work and personal items that fall within the work week) and it’s been a game-changer.

    The cut of those J.Crew jeans remind me of a pair I have from Acne Studios … gotta pull them out; such a chic piece for the cooler weather! xx

    1. YES to time-blocking on iCal/GoogleCal. A total must! My friend Hitha recently shared that she even time-blocks what she’ll do when in transit (in taxi/on subway!) — so smart to hold yourself accountable while en route somewhere because sometimes those can be lost pockets of time, frittered away on social media.


    2. WOW! Hitha is inspiring in so many ways (especially love her #5SmartReads) but this “in transit” tip is next level. Will have to try that!! xx

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