Are you drowning in email? Join the club. Fortunately, I’ve come up with a system that helps me keep my inbox relatively under control. Some days are better than others, and I’m trying to keep improving. But here are my email thoughts.
Everybody’s got a different method for this battle. Some work, some don’t. But even among productivity gurus, there are different schools of thought that all work in their own way.
Personally, I believe in two things: 1.) inbox zero, and 2.) search. Combined, they make my email manageable.
But before I explain that, are there ways you can eliminate some of the incoming emails? Do you really need to be on some of those email newsletter lists we all subscribe to? Does a certain friend or relative forward tons of junk that just clutters up your inbox?
We have to take control. Stopping emails at the source is the first thing I suggest. See how many you can eliminate BEFORE they ever hit your inbox. Every email you receive costs you precious time.
Now for my processing thoughts:
1. I process my inbox to zero every day.
Why? Because then I know for sure that nothing slips through the cracks. Does this mean that I actually handle every task that came in? No. But I’ve at put those tasks on my to do list (where tasks belong in the first place). Email is for communicating, NOT for getting things done. Communicate, put tasks on your task list, empty the inbox, and get out.
Basically, I run through all the emails one at a time. For each email, decide which choice best fits:
Delete as much as possible. Or, if it’s only informational and no action needs to be taken, Archive it. Then you still have it in Gmail in case you need it for future reference.
Delegate any appropriate items to any employees you have (or if it’s something a spouse or partner should handle). Get it off your plate and onto someone else’s. Archive the email.
Defer things that will take more than 2 minutes to do. Put a task on your task list. Archive the email.
Do things that take less than 2 minutes. If it’s a quick email reply, hammer it out. If it’s a super quick task on someone’s case, do it. Archive the email.
At the end, you have your inbox empty and a list of larger tasks to do. You can knock them out when you have time. But the key is that you’re no longer drowning in an inbox.
Finally, you have to remember that your inbox won’t stay at zero. The best practice is to process everything in there to zero once or twice per day. Ignore the inbox the rest of the time (I’m not so good at that part). But don’t stress if the box starts filling up again, as long as you zero it out each day.
For more on this, check out Merlin Mann’s work.
2. I don’t organize email.
That’s like trying to organize a river. It’s insanity to try to put each droplet of water in a certain place. There are a million more droplets coming down the mountain at you. You’ll spend too much time organizing and not enough time doing. I rely 100% on Gmail’s search abilities. It’s *never* let me down. If I can’t find it with Gmail search, it doesn’t exist in my email.
Does this mean I’m perfect? Heck no.
My biggest fault is keeping an eye on my inbox too much. But I’ve taken steps to improve that. For example, I have no new email notifiers. My computer doesn’t beep. My phone doesn’t flash. I only see new email when I open my inbox. Now I just need to only check it a couple times per day.
What works for you?
Get more legal tips