DyslexicProfessional.com - Dyslexia at work

Inbox epiphany – dyslexics and email

MailboxI’ve been using email since about 1990. In fact, I introduced it to the company I worked for at that time. You’d have thought that, with all that practice, I’d have got it right by now… but sadly not so! However, I have recently found a new way to handle it, which is working far better than anything I have ever tried.


When it comes to email, I’ve tried everything (or so I thought) including:
Outlook, lotus notes, gmail, hotmail, windows mobile, blackberry, POP, IMAP, colour coding, printing them out, categories, setting aside fixed times every day to do email, working through the weekend… you name it… I’ve probably tried it.

So what’s the problem?

Every day, I receive 100+ new emails to add to the ones still sitting in my inbox from yesterday. Clearly, there are some important ones in thee but quite a few are just “spam” or over zealous copies (cc) of emails to someone else. However, to find the ones i really need to read… I have to read them all. If we say that each one takes an average of a minute to read (which isn’t true, because I read slowly and many of them are long and include attachments)… that would be 2+ hours gone… and nothing replied to! Worse, each one, important or not, could trigger 4-5 thoughts that take time to explore, act on or put down and get back to the inbox. That could easily double the time. So half the working say could be lost… nothing productive done… just processing email!

My solution

However, for the last 2 months I’ve been trying something new… and it’s working. The things I needed from the new system were:
Smaller inbox – Less email in my “inbox” view, so I don’t get distracted – ideally no more than one day at a time.
Flexible workload – Some days are just difficult. I need a way to handle the fact that some days, I can not get through everything – I need a way to store it an catch up.
Where did I put that? Some emails contain information that I will need access to until a task is complete – they can’t stay in my inbox – so I need a place to put them.
Diminishing returns – I receive too many emails to read them all in detail, so I have to prioritise. If I prioritise wrong then I will soon know… and may have to find the discarded email in a hurry. But usually, older emails are less important.

The new system requires four folders to be setup:

  • This Week
  • Last Week
  • Older Emails
  • Actions

So how does it work?

  1. I now keep one day of email in my inbox and try to clear it every day.
  2. At the end of each day I drag the contents (read or not) to my “This Week” folder, where it stays until the end of the week. That keeps my Inbox down to today’s correspondence only.
  3. If I have a difficult day then the following morning I can look at the This Week folder to see what I have missed.
  4. At the end of the week I drag the entire contents of This Week to a Last Week folder. That means that if I am having a particularly busy time the I have two weeks worth of readily accessible emails to hand.
  5. When I see an email that needs action, I drag it to the Actions folder. When I have rime, I review that folder and complete what is required.

So what?

Whilst this may not seem momentous, it has made a huge difference for me. I deal with high volumes of email, much faster and have a fighting chance of not missing key correspondence.

I hope this is useful.

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  1. Tim Tim
    10 October 2014    

    This is a fantastic website. I am beginning my career as a public sector accountant and I look forward to reading more.

    Thank you

    • 29 January 2015    

      Thanks for the praise. If you register your email or follow me on Twitter I will keep you informed as the site updates.

      If there is anything you’d particularly like covered, suggestions are very welcome.


  2. fighting dyslexia fighting dyslexia
    7 January 2015    

    Hi David,
    I was wondering if you can do your next blog on the following topic; what you found hard (daily routine or in general) as a dyslexic at different position in your management consultant career( analyst, associate and etc). Also can you answer the following question in your blog:
    As A dyslexic we have no problem to finding solution to hard question but does long hours affect your performance (in management consultancy I am guessing you work very long hours)?
    How many hours of sleep do you require and how well do you function if you get less than your “minimum required” sleep?
    How is your concentration?
    Did you find it hard to be fully engaged for very long time?
    How is your spelling and you language skills generally?
    How did the above affect you doing your job?

    I would like to know what type of person you were and the level of your dyslexia.
    As myself I am a dyslexic that achieve good enough academic grades (except for English) and managed to enter an elite University. If you are similar to me maybe than I could also become a management consultant.

    • 29 January 2015    


      Thanks for your suggestion. Great idea for a post. I will definitely add that to the list of things to post on shortly.

      I’m doing a pretty major update to the site at present so it may be a few weeks before I can write that.

      If you want to register your email address in the form on the right then you should receive a notification when I post.

      With regard to management consultancy – there are a lot of dyslexics in that profession. As I’m sure you will know, dyslexia provides a pattern of both strengths and weaknesses. For some, those strengths make them ideal for a career in management consultancy – for example, visual problem solving skills.

      Once again, thanks for your post. I’m sorry it took time to get “approved” – I’ve. had rather a lot of spam comments that I needed to wade through to find yours!


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