Harnessing Email: The 80/20 Inbox

Mark Docken, owner of InaFix MD, implemented a couple of ideas from my last newsletter that have revolutionized his email strategy.

Mark tells me he can’t believe how much more time he now has left at the end of the day.

How did he do it?

1. Mark started by using the 80/20 rule to figure out which 20% of his activities produce 80% of his business.
2. He set up folders at the left of his screen to represent each of these 20% activities, in order of priority. Each folder represents a “rock” in his jar of time around which other stuff gets arranged.
3. He scheduled a recurring task in his calendar to review the folders at the end of the day to make sure nothing important has been left undone.

Simple, eh?

Here is Mark’s recent email…

“Lois, I think you finally got through to me. I re-organized my email folders (email happens to be the hub of my entire business life).

“Here’s how my folders look now:


“Everything that comes into my inbox goes into one of these 6 folders and is dealt with each day in order.

APPOINTMENTS are most important for obvious reasons since I schedule my own, they’re the means through which everything else gets fulfilled, and goofing up here would affect me big-time.

CONTRACT is second because it pays the bills. Plus if I don’t get my client contact hours in each week I throw away $$. So this folder includes any email that relates to my clients and immediate work opportunities.

GROWTH is next most important because the future of the business depends on it and without it there will be no….CONTRACTS. Into this file I put potential opportunities that I don’t have time for right now, but want to follow up when I do have some time.

WORK comes in next. This includes jobs that are non-urgent, like various kinds of personal or client maintenance activities with no immediate deadline.

SAND is random administrative stuff that has to be done but makes me no money.

FILE is where I put stuff for future reference so it’s out of mind but I can reference it if needed (i.e. client histories, interesting articles etc.)”.

Mark further states:

“My goal is to take everything I complete in each folder and find a way of moving it up to the one above. For example:

-Turn Contracts into Appointments to ensure they get done and I take good care of most important clients.

-Take Growth emails and find ways of turning them into Contract work which is the best kind of work.

-Take Work emails and find ways of turning them into Growth by contacting those clients to generate referrals and more work.

-Take Sand emails and try to think of a way to turn them into Work.

-When Sand is empty I can go through the File and review what’s in there. Of course, I don’t get to this very often.”

Brilliant! Way to go, Mark!

One thing I’ve learned through years of coaching is that everybody’s different. So whatever system you create has to forward your business goals and work for you.

So here’s your challenge. Ask yourself:

1. Which of my daily activities contribute the highest value to my business – my top 20%?

2. Which of my daily activities are producing little or no value to my business and need to be reconsidered?

3. How can I arrange my email Inbox (and other aspects of my business) to ensure I’m spending most of my time on my top 20%?

Yours in growth & learning,


Lois Raats
Business Coach & Founder
Ready2Grow Associates

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