Where do you file your car’s service history?

My car is 13 years old.

I own it outright and it costs me very little to run.

It suits my needs perfectly and it continues to get me from A to B with very little resistance.

Of course, it no longer has a fancy-pants warranty to cover any unforeseen issues that arise, but that’s OK.

I budget for two services per year and I also allocate funds for any mechanical ailments that could rear their ugly head at any given time.

At the moment it’s still cheaper than paying off a new car.

I got new tyres last year, and this year I thought I was going to make it through without any expensive outlays.…until I got a call from my mechanic 15 minutes after I dropped it off for its most recent service.

THE UNFORESEEN

“When was the timing belt last replaced?” he asked. 

“The what?” I gulped as I visualised all that lovely cash haemorrhaging from my bank account.

“The timing belt – I think it was done about 5 years ago, but I can’t remember.” he admitted.

At this point I could have insisted my mechanic look up his own records.

After all, he prepares a very comprehensive service history every time he services my car.

However, we realised that the timing belt replacement had not been done by him, it had been undertaken by a dealership as part of a 180,000km service.

WHERE THE TIME WASTING BEGINS

At this point I felt very much like all the plans I had for the next hour had been sidelined until I could find the answer to my mechanic’s question.

Already, time had been wasted.

My mechanic had to stop what he was doing to call me and hope that we didn’t have to play phone-tag for half a day.

I had to stop what I was doing to take the call and listen as he patiently explained to me what the timing belt was.

I then had to put my own income-generating-activities on hold in order to locate the evidence he needed so we could make a decision about whether the timing belt did or did not need replacing.

Then, I had to make the follow up call to let my mechanic know what I discovered.

A GOOD FILING SYSTEM

Fortunately, I have some pretty finely tuned filing systems.

Those who know me are probably not surprised.

I knew exactly where all of my car service histories were.

My car service histories for the last 5 years are filled in my ‘Bills Folder’ where all the bills I pay during a financial year are filed alphabetically. (You can learn more about that system here).

I just went to ‘B’ for Best Motors and located the service histories straight away.

But it still took my time; it still took my attention away from income-generating activities (which are paramount for a sole trader).

HOW TO AVOID IT NEXT TIME

Now I don’t begrudge my mechanic at all for requesting I find the answer to his question.

I’m grateful that he did.

Ultimately we were able to determine that the timing belt did need replacing and yes, I was going to incur a short lived haemorrhage from my bank account.

But what I did vow was that I didn’t want to have to faff-around like that again.

And so, instead of belly-aching about it if and when it happened next time, I implemented a solution to by-pass any future faffing-around.

THE SOLUTION

I spent 15 minutes making copies of the last five years worth of service histories.

I copied every piece of paper (there were only 10) that documented any repairs and maintenance that had been undertaken on my car since 2015.

I then popped them in a basic plastic sleeve (you could use a manila folder or a document wallet) which I then slid down between the driver’s seat and the centre console of my car.

Next time anything goes wrong with my car I – or anyone – can grab that little file and refer to it to join the diagnostic dots.

Equally, the mechanic now knows it’s there and can readily access it whenever they’re doing work on my car.

Let’s hope my car lasts another few years so I can leverage my groovy little system a few more times!

Do you have a filing system for your car’s service history?

How to manage your email inbox using only 6 folders.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working with a client whose email inbox has displayed a bright red notification badge advising them they still have over 100 unread emails awaiting their attention.

Some clients have over 500.

Frighteningly, others have more than 1,000.

The worst was 13,000+. Seriously.

What’s often interesting is the next time I meet with those same clients the number of emails in their inbox has rarely decreased.

Some clients don’t take any notice; they’ve honed their colour-blind-and-blinkered management technique down to fine art.

Others are quite overwhelmed but don’t know the best way to deal with the problem, so the problem remains.

I suspect there are folks around the world who believe a brimming email inbox is a reflection of how busy and important they think they are, so that vibrant red dot with a big number in it remains and they use it as an excuse for not actually managing their email inbox effectively!

YOUR EMAIL INBOX IS NOT AN INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO.

There are things in life we should protect, nurture and encourage to grow:

  • For parents, it’s the development of their children.
  • For gardeners, it’s plants in their garden.
  • For cricketers, it’s runs on the board.
  • For sole traders, it’s their profits and ongoing earning capacity.
  • For investors, it’s their portfolio.
  • For retirees, it’s their superannuation fund.

But the number of emails in your email inbox is not one of them!

THE PURPOSE OF YOUR INBOX

In my opinion, the purpose of your inbox is to act as a holding pen to illicit action on your part.

It’s not a self storage facility.

It’s also not like the nominated  junk-drawer in your house where you stash as much ‘stuff’ as you can that you don’t want to sort through!

THE 3 REASONS WHY AN EMAIL SHOULD BE IN YOUR INBOX

There are only three reasons an email should remain in your inbox.

  1. Because you still need to read it
  2. Because you still need to complete actioning it.
  3. Because you haven’t filed it away.

I realise that some emails require much more complicated cognitive process than others.

A family member emailing you about dinner plans is not quite the same as a request from your accountant for your profit and loss statements for the last 5 years.

But the reality is that irrespective of what action is required the email should be moved out of your inbox as soon as the action is taken.

It’s done; you’ve dealt with it. Move on!

TOO MANY FOLDERS WASTES TIME

Throughout the course of my sole trader journey I have tried an assortment of techniques to manage my email inbox.

For a long time I tried filing emails according to clients and other relevant themes (family, travel, accountant) etc.

But that became complicated and overwhelming.

Despite my best intentions I ended up wasting so much time looking through all the different folders trying to locate emails.

Was the email from the accountant’s email address, or their assistant’s?

Do I file that email according to the accountant’s name or their assistant’s name?

Was it my mother or my sister who emailed me the Kris Kringle list?

Which one of my pals sent the itinerary for the ski trip?

Where did I file the latest Telstra bill?

STREAMLINING

As my business has grown I have been engaged by different clients who require difference services from me.

A number of them required that I monitor their email address for them.

Others have requested I have my own email address that relates to the work I do for them. E.g. cass@client’s domain name.com.

As a result I currently have 8 email addresses that I monitor for an assortment of clients, plus 3 of my own.

I have no intention of flipping between 11 different email platforms or websites to monitor those individual emails.

Instead, they are all set up to synchronise in Outlook so I can access them from my laptop or my desktop.

Note – I draw the line at having anything other than my own primary business email set up in Outlook on my phone.

Needless to say, can you imagine how stressful it would be to open those 11 email inboxes if they all have 100+ emails in their individual inboxes?

That’s potentially 1,100 emails slapping me in the face from a little red bubble at any given time!

No. Thank. You.

THE ONLY 6 FOLDERS YOU NEED TO MANAGE YOUR EMAIL INBOX.

As a way to eliminate overwhelm, I have devised an incredibly simple system to manage my email inbox that works beautifully.

It consists of 6 folders, 5 of which are default folders that come with most email service providers anyway.

  • Folder 1 (default):   Inbox
  • Folder 2 (default):  Drafts
  • Folder 3 (default):  Sent
  • Folder 4 (default):  Junk
  • Folder 5 (default):  Trash
  • Folder 6 (created): Completed/Actioned 

It’s folder 6 (Completed/Actioned) that’s going to change your life.

DISCIPLINE

Setting up your own Completed/Actioned folder will not resolve your email inbox management problems on its own.

You need to be an active participant in the filing process

The emails don’t just pick themselves up and file themselves in that folder with conscious volition.

It fundamentally requires the following disciplined action on your part: click-hold-drag.

Single left click on the email you’ve completed dealing with.

Hold its selection.

Drag it to your very own Completed/Actioned folder.

That’s it; that’s all it takes.

LOCATING EMAILS IN THE FUTURE

The reason this simple system works is because the search and filter functions of most email providers are robust.

If you need to locate an email in the future all you have to do is open your Completed/Actioned folder and use the email provider’s ‘search’ functionality (usually a search bar) to locate the email you’re looking for.

This is the Outlook search bar that I use when searching my ‘CIR_Completed/Actioned’ folder:

 

Alternatively, emails in the Completed/Actioned folder can be sorted according to ‘date sent’, or ‘date received’, ‘from’, ‘subject’, ‘to’ etc.

To access that filter option (in Outlook) I go to the ‘View’ menu, I choose ‘Arrange by’ and then I select from the list that appears. See below:

This displays every email in my Completed/Actioned folder according to the parameters I select.

Once I’m finished searching I re-set the ‘Arrange by’ parameter to ‘Date Received’ which is my viewing preference.

A DAILY EMAIL ROUTINE

Of course, you don’t get results by just reading a blog post.

You’ve got to take action.

Here’s my morning email routine; the habit I’ve established that enables me to keep on top of my email inbox:

  1. Open Outlook, then..
  2. Open my Junk folder
  3. Check if anything in the Junk folder actually requires my attention.
  4. if so drag that email into my Inbox folder.
  5. If not, unsubscribe from the sender, or block the sender, or delete the email.
  6. Then, open my Inbox folder.
  7. Scroll through the emails in the Inbox folder.
  8. Unsubscribe or block anything that managed to bypass my Junk folder.
  9. Immediately delete anything I don’t need to pay any attention to.
  10. Ensure everything that is new – that I need to pay attention to – is marked as ‘unread‘ .
  11. Leave everything – that is in the process of being actioned – as is.
  12. File emails I’ve finished dealing with into my Completed/Actioned folder.

I repeat these steps for the Inbox folder of all 11 email addresses I have set up in Outlook, and I rarely have more than a combined ’30’ in my red notification badge.

I know, smug huh? 

Hopefully, there’s not too many of you with more than 50 unread messages in your email inbox.

But if you have been treating your email inbox like an investment portfolio don’t stress – you can be saved!

MY PARTING TIPS

Here’s my parting tips to get you on your way: 

  1. Set up your Completed/Actioned folder, today.
  2. Purge your Junk folder 
  3. Empty your Trash folder.
  4. Spend 15 minutes a day processing your Inbox folder.

Then sit back and watch the smirk dissolve on the face of that bright red bubble. One. Last. Time.

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Castlemaine, VIC. Australia.

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