How do you control your emails?
How often do you check your inbox and cringed? On Sunday, I felt like most of my emails were rubbish. Maybe it’s still the result from this month’s full moon (my excuse for everything over the weekend). Maybe it’s time to take control of my inbox again. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love these tips to take charge of your emails again:
How many newsletters do you receive which you don’t even read? Unsubscribe!
Don’t just keep these emails for reference. They’ll get lost in your folders. You can always search on the internet or the provider’s homepage and most likely find an even newer version of the article.
Although I’ve become more rigorous in the un-subscription of newsletters, it’s amazing how many I still receive each day. It seems like I’m also getting some I’ve never signed up for like today’s “Invitation to the Timbuktu’s Property Show”.
If you don’t want to go through the unsubscription process, apps like Unsubscriber can help you.
Once you’ve dealt with an email, move it out of the inbox into a folder. The idea is that you only keep in the inbox emails that are unread or that require a response. If an email is for your information only, read it and file immediately afterwards, like David Allen suggests. Don’t let it linger in your inbox.
The filing structure depends on your preferences. I’ve attended an Outlook course a few years ago where the instructor suggested to only keep 3 folders: Inbox, sent items and archive. This may be too minimalistic for some. His argument was that you find any email with Outlook’s search function.
Personally, I have more than 3 folders. Besides the inbox, sent items and archive, I give each client a folder. Once a project is closed, this folder is moved into the archive.
Give up unrealistic expectations
I’ve met a number of folks who work towards a zero email inbox. While this may be achievable for some, it doesn’t work for everyone. For this later group, it can be quite stressful to read, answer, file, archive and/or delete each incoming email, just to end the day with nothing in the inbox. If you are working across timezones, like many of us are, this may be a particular challenge.
It’s actually more beneficial to accept you’ll have emails in your inbox while you’re simultaneously working towards handling them in an efficient way. This way, you’re not feeling additional pressure put on you by you.
Check only at specific times
A previous client surprised me when she announced: “Never expect an immediate reply from me. I wait a day before I reply.” Now, if you’ve worked in similar workplaces to mine, this may not always be possible. However, you can decide when you’ll check your emails.
In the past, I’d have this little notification window pop up whenever new mail arrived. This broke my work flow and it took me years to disable it. The result: I love it! I now go into my inbox at specific times or intervals only and I get to work on an activity without any interruptions (phone calls excluded).
If you don’t think you can only check your emails 2x a day, take a small step. Work on something for 10 minutes and then check your inbox. Once you feel comfortable with this approach, you can stretch the length of not checking to 15, then 20 and maybe 30 minutes. This additional time to work on a task will put you back in the driver and allows you to do what needs to be done.
On my phone, I’ve also disabled the notification of incoming emails. Whether you’re using your computer, laptop or mobile, I’d recommend following the same approach on all devices. Give it a week before you make any further adjustments.
Over the years, I’ve also learnt that different people have different approaches to controlling their inbox. I’ve seen individuals with over 10,000 emails in their inbox and it’s still possible to become the master of the inbox! Which approach works for you? What areas do you want to change? Let us know!
Until next time,