Is your inbox overflowing? When emails are coming in faster than you can deal with them you can feel like poor Sisyphus, eternally pushing a boulder up a hill.
While Inbox Zero seems like a myth at this point, it doesn’t mean you can’t regain some control. With a few simple tweaks you can get rid of the overwhelm and become more productive when dealing with your emails.
Here are 6 simple steps to tame your inbox:
1. Set a schedule
Do you have your inbox open all the time?
If you do, every new email coming in will be clamouring for your immediate attention, like a baby bird demanding food from exhausted parents. And that’s totally distracting when you’re trying to get on with other things.
Set aside specific times of the day to deal with your emails and keep your email app closed at other times so you can focus on other tasks.
You could also set a time limit. If you only have 15 minutes at a time to deal with emails, there’ll be no procrastination; you’ll just crack on and deal with as many messages as possible within that time frame.
You might also like: How to set boundaries with your clients
2. Turn off notifications
Similarly, make sure your notifications are turned off so there’s no pop-up message or sound with each new email. That’s so distracting and you’ll easily lose your focus.
3. Add a 2 minute rule
When you’re deciding which emails to deal with immediately and which you need to deal with later, use a 2 minute rule:
Will it take you 2 minutes or less to deal with this message? If the answer is yes, do it and get it out of the way. Or if it needs longer, mark it as ‘to do’ and set aside some time later to deal with it.
4. Use message templates
Have you heard of canned responses?
They’re incredibly useful and a great timesaver. For any message you find yourself typing over and over, you set up a canned response, or template, so that instead of writing it from scratch each time, you just insert the template into the email, customise the details and send.
If you’re a Gmail user, go to Settings > Labs. Enable the Canned Responses option then you can start saving and using message templates. And there are other tools available if you use a different email app, like Quicktext for Thunderbird.
5. File messages away
Once you’ve dealt with a message, file it away out of your inbox. Create folders for emails you need to keep and refer to again later, and move messages there as soon as you can to clear them out of your inbox.
And if you don’t need a message anymore, delete it. Decluttering doesn’t just apply to your home, you can declutter your digital life too, by deleting unnecessary files and messages.
6. Unsubscribe ruthlessly
If you’ve signed up for freebie after freebie, you’ll be on a heck of a lot of email lists. But be honest, do you need to be on all of them?
If your inbox is filling up with newsletters that you simply don’t have the time – or inclination – to read, delete those emails. Start getting trigger happy with the unsubscribe links. Any newsletters that you aren’t excited to get, any you aren’t finding useful or interesting, and especially any that you regularly aren’t getting around to even opening should be culled.
Don’t be afraid of offending people by unsubscribing; they’d prefer to only have engaged readers on their lists. And the more you unsubscribe from, the sooner your inbox shrinks to a more manageable size.
7. Bonus step!
If you’re not using a project management app yet, start looking into that too.
If you’re dealing with project-specific messages in an app like Asana rather than by email, there are even fewer emails flowing into your inbox.
Plus, as messages are contained within each project in the app, information relating to that project is more organised and easier to find than when it’s in amongst all your other emails. It’s totally win-win!
You might also like: 4 reasons you need to use a project management tool
Recently I found myself with over 800 messages in my work inbox, plus another few hundred in my personal account. Yikes! But by implementing these few simple changes I’ve been able to both save time and get my inboxes down to more manageable levels. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach Inbox Zero, but as long as messages aren’t at scary levels, I’m happy.
If your overflowing inbox is getting you down too, give these simple changes a try. And if you have a favourite tip for how to tame your inbox, I’d love to hear it – why not share it in the comments below.
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