Your Inbox - who manages who?
Imagine going to check your home letterbox, only to find 300 unread items of mail sitting there, waiting for your attention. This may send a shiver down your spine, however, having 300 unread emails seems to have become the norm.
Most of the research on email efficiency suggests batching and checking emails 2-3 times a day at most. Scheduling in a regular email management time, instead of letting it take priority over your to-do list is vital.
The following is the most common methodology for getting emails under control:
When email takes over
- Turn off your email notifications
- Have calendar/task list on a second screen
- Close your inbox (however hard this may be)
You may like to take advantage of some technology apps and programs which can help alleviate your email-to-task-list nightmares. A fan favourite for turning emails to tasks is Trello. The beauty of Trello is its ability to sync with Outlook, G-mail and most of other popular emailing systems. This means importing the entire email into your task list – without taking up valuable space.
More mail = more stress
Whether you’ve worked out a way to sift through your emails efficiently or not – it’s clear we’ve become email junkies. From checking several times per hour, to late night emailing. It’s become an issue which is taking over our lives. We become too used to butterflying with our emails, checking one without actioning it. Only to then butterflying to another – without doing much on that either.
Poor email management creates stress, wastes time and reduces our performance. An important email which could have been done quite easily can become a big crisis if left undone. Deadlines can be missed, delays can be created and stress builds up.
If you feel like you can identify with more than one of the above sentiments, it may be time for an email detox. When starting your email cleanse, why not consider the following items:
- Don’t spend too much time on non-value adding emails. Set a timer for 5 minutes to make sure you’re not wasting your precious time, and delegate wherever possible
- Unsubscribe from mailing lists, they will only waste your time
- Create a rule to ensure any emails you are CC’d in, go to a separate folder.
Time for a detox
Creating a rule to automatically move all emails you are CC’d in to a specific folder. This means you are then able to prioritise other emails, and come back to check CC’d emails all at once. Alternatively, have a conversation with the people who tend to CC you in a little too often. Take the opportunity to discuss curbing their habit to only those items you really want to see.
When the time comes to check your inbox, be sure to caffeinate prior. Aim to process as many emails as possible during a set amount of time. The reason emailing can take us so long is because we need two different mindsets – processing & thinking. With your inbox, add any emails which will take more than 5 minutes to action to your task list.
Also make sure your task title includes enough information for you to be able to prioritise it accordingly. An example of this may be “Email Lydia about her new accounting software purchase”.
Once you have sifted through the emails which need to go on your task list, go back and reply to all the quick 5-minute emails, ensuring you keep an eye on the time. Once those are done, you now can return to your task list, make sure the emails you’ve added are ordered alongside your current to-dos, and then get cracking on the most important item next.
Last but definitely not least – if you are finished with an email – be sure to delete it or move it to an appropriate folder. This is so that you can get the dopamine release related to completing a task, and perhaps even one day soon, the beautiful reward of an empty inbox.
Remember, your inbox should NOT be:
- A filing system
- A task management system
- A contact management system
- A bin
Our final advice on email composition:
- Emails should be short and to the point, otherwise you’re just perpetuating the system
- Leave the subject line until you have completed your email, and be sure to label it with the most accurate subject title
- Leave white space so that your recipient can easily scan to the items which they are most interested in
- Be clear on the purpose of the email, and what you are expecting in return (if anything)
- Avoid CC-ing the whole world, keep it on a need to know basis only
- Proof-read your email before sending, including checking you’ve attached everything and labelled it with the right recipient.