I’ve written before about the glow I get from an empty inbox, but yesterday a couple of beloved colleagues asked me to re-visit my strategies for managing my email and avoiding inbox overwhelm.
Here there are. Warning: They are draconian, enter at your own risk and be prepared for some characteristic plain talking, I take no prisoners.
My Goal? An empty inbox by bedtime, every day, without fail, 7 days a week. Yup, told ya. No prisoners.
My work IS my email, mainly. So I have to be very efficient with it. I have it open all day and some of the evening, I deal with most of it as it comes in and I clear it all every day. At bedtime, anything left in my inbox is something I haven’t done yet and propose to do tomorrow; these are rare exceptions to my rule. If I haven’t decided what to do about something, how to handle it, how to respond, then that’s a reason for it lingering in my inbox for up to 24 hours while I sleep on it. If I have no intention of doing anything about it, I am decisive and it gets deleted. Decisive is good. This is about good and fast decision-making as much as anything. Be brave.
You have first to master the principle of Scan/Delete; scan everything and if you are not going to read it today or action it imminently, delete it with impunity. Everything important comes back.
Give up trying to be on top of all the information in the world and viciously unsubscribe from anything you cannot read today. See also Enough Already! Unsubscribing Is A State of Mind.
Do not save or file anything “in case” and do not print emails. A great deal of what comes to us in our inbox is also on the web too so can be found again with a simple Google search on the few words you can remember. This applies to most newsletters to which you are subscribed. If it says up the top “see this in your browser” that’s a sure sign you can read it online and don’t have to read it in your email. Google (or your preferred search engine) has the answer to almost anything.
A better way to reduce inbox clutter than by subscribing to receive email newsletters is to follow the person first on Twitter and/or Facebook so you don’t lose touch and will occasionally be reminded of them, and/or to subscribe to their blogs and other content in your RSS reader which content you can then read on your iPad or equivalent via an App like Feedly. I am sure there are others. Sorry to the internet marketers of the world, but these days there are more convenient and just all-round better ways for me to engage with your content than in my inbox.
- More is not better, less is infinitely superior. The quality of the attention you can bring to that which is really important to you justifies your time and brings peace of mind
- Not everything requires a reply.
- Only engage with what is vital, urgent or important, trash everything else.
- One day’s work for one woman is all you can process today. If you can’t clear your inbox by bedtime, then it’s more than one day’s work and you have to let something go, mainly the **** stuff. Delete and unsubscribe until you can do all your emails in a day, most days.
- Information overload is just more clutter and clutter stands between you and being creative and successful.
- Your delete button is your best friend. I have my Deleted and Sent boxes set up so that I can look things up again if I was slightly too hasty with my trigger finger on the delete button; ’tis better to go looking for a rarity in Deleted than have it clogging up mental clarity in Inbox.