If you’re like me, you probably receive anywhere between 20 and 80 emails a day. This adds up to about 12,000 emails in just a year. I don’t know about you but I’m willing to bet that I really only need about 15% of those emails. The rest are just taking up space in the universe. So the question is how do you prevent your inbox from becoming a black hole?
Last week, I implemented the RAFT system. Perhaps you’ve heard of it before, but have you tried it? The RAFT system has been around for a while and is pretty generic. Our propensity to organize emails differs by profession and position, so I wanted defined RAFT for the attorney. As an attorney, here’s how RAFT is summarized:
- Read the email and determine if it’s something that requires your attention.
- If the email is client related, create a time entry for it. Even if you don’t intend to bill it, this allows you to show your clients you wrote off time which gives you more leverage if they come back complaining about how high their bill is. It also lets you know how much time you’re actually spending on each client and case.
- If the email requires your attention, take care of it.
- Or if you can’t take care of it now, add it to your firm’s calendar or to-do list. If it’s a task you do every week or month create a reoccurring event in your calendar – this will help you save time in the future.
- If it’s someone else’s job, delegate it to them. Forward it, or add an event/to-do in their calendar and simply click “notify”. A lot of practice management systems will automatically send an inter-office message alerting them that they’ve been assigned a task.
- If it was billable work, take that time entry from step one (“Read”) and create a bill right now. With just a few extra clicks, come the last Friday of the month, you won’t be stuck in your office creating 100 time entries and bills. By doing this incrementally throughout the month you might just make it home in time for dinner.
- Save that email in your practice management or document management system, and make sure to attach it to a client or matter. The next time you’re looking for it you won’t be sifting through old newsletters and coupons in your Inbox, you’ll go straight to the client or matter. Two minutes turned into two seconds. Plus, by adding it to the system just once, the system blesses you with this information for life!
- No practice management system? No problem, put it in a folder with similar communications (try by topic or client).
- Don’t forget, you can create a ‘Rule’ for emails coming from a certain sender (see Managing Emails in Outlook using “Rules” ). For instance, when my significant other sends me an email, because I’ve set up a ‘Rule’ in Outlook, instead of going to my inbox her email goes to a folder I created which is conveniently called “You have less money now”. That way, my Inbox stays less cluttered and I can spend more time responding to emails that will actually make me money. I’ll see what she wants to buy later.
- Put unimportant messages in the trash. (I know – it’s tough hitting delete sometimes. Rest assured it’s not really gone, it’s just sorted into your Trash folder. So when it comes time for dumpster diving, you’ve still got plenty of material to sift through and potentially hoard).
That’s it! I started doing this last week and I can’t even tell you how much time it’s freed up for me. I realized that I was spending a big chunk of my day just digging through emails. Now, I simply go to their dedicated location and there’s no junk to sort through. I’ve increased my responsiveness and I’m not forgetting about important messages.
If you find yourself constantly digging through emails, I recommend taking an hour or so to organize your inbox, and follow-up using this RAFT system for attorneys. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.