Do you know how much time you spend each day managing your inbox?
One aspect of life that we are all dealing with is email productivity. Based on data available on Email Management Time by Job Category, very few workers are spending “no time” managing email, while a significant number are spending more than an hour each day.
What could accomplish with an extra hour each day? And what does it take to break free from email overwhelm? A lot of that depends on your email archetype.
The ways in which we interact with our email are as different as our personalities! How do you use your email? Do you use it as your file management system or is it more of a black hole for useless information? If so, you are likely an email "filer" archetype. Do you have 5 unread emails in your inbox or 100? If you're looking at the larger number, you may fall into the archetype of "email hoarder." Do you go through phases of increased email productivity only to see your systems fall apart when things get really busy at work? If so, you may be a hybrid between an email hoarder and a filer.
Being aware of your email personality will help you know what to look out for as barriers to breaking free from email overwhelm.
If you are, like many of us, overwhelmed by what lives in your inbox – day in and day out – consider spring cleaning. Yes, the same process you use to clean out your closets will work in your inbox as well.
- As you go through your emails, decide what is important to keep. Then, commit to a system of filling that works for you.
- When in doubt, throw it out. Or create an archive of your inbox on a regular basis.
- If you have tasks in your inbox that can be delegated appropriately, do so – without delay.
For many of us, our to-do list is our email inbox. In this scenario, have you stopped to consider how items get on your to-do list? In essence, all of your co-workers, managers, friends, family and even strangers with access to your email address are able to add to your to-do list by the hour. No wonder our days are busier than ever – and sometimes feel less productive than ever as well!
In the steps below, you’ll learn some actionable ways to rethink your to-do list and gain control over the priorities of your day using the Five Habit of Email Happiness.
Schedule Time with Your Inbox.
How often do you really need to check your inbox throughout the day? Think about your workflow and identify two to three times a day to check you email.
- Avoid email first thing in the morning if that is your most productive time of the day.
- If you are working on email in the morning, make sure you are clear about your priority tasks before going into the inbox!
- Minimize distractions by turning off your email notification.
Take Time to Unsubscribe
Every time you download a white paper, buy a new pair of shoes or join a professional organization, they add you to their email list. According to the an article on email spam worldwide,
Roughly 130 billion spam emails are sent, worldwide, per day, accounting for roughly 70% of global emailing activity.
This results in weekly – sometimes daily – junk mail in your inbox. Most of us think we are “too busy” to open the email and hit the unsubscribe option.
Don’t fall for that mistake. Take the extra 5 seconds to unsubscribe and free up lots of white space in your inbox.
Just think how good you will FEEL without all that email clutter!
Be Considerate of Your Own Time
Because your inbox is your to-do list open to the world (or at least your team, boss, and anyone else who has access to your email address thinks this is the case!) make an agreement with yourself to be considerate of your own time.
Let’s say your manager sends you an email letting you know that the big report is due on Friday. As soon as you read that email, schedule time to write the report on your calendar.
Many of us are in meetings all day every day, and our calendars are open to coworkers and managers to schedule meetings. Do yourself a favor and schedule time to get work done.
Give the Gift of Accountability
How many times have you sent an email to someone you work with asking for input, feedback, meeting time, or any type of follow-up?
In your mind, you have completed your action item for that project for the moment. But what if the person you sent the email isn’t quite as efficient with inbox management as you are? What if this email containing an important action item gets lost in a sea of inbox chaos?
If an email response is critical to your success or ability to move forward on a project, do yourself and your recipient a favor by following up with them. You might even do this a day or two before you actually need the response. Most email platforms will allow you to auto-schedule this step at the time you send the original email.
Create Rules that Cannot Be Broken
The five habits of inbox happiness are meant to be as automatic as possible. With a robust tool like Outlook 2010 on your side, you can create rules that automate filing, color code emails by sender, and automatically copy you on specific emails – just to name a few.
The possibilities are endless: Right now, think about these situations. What rules would you like to create for your inbox?