We all hate email. Or at least we should. It creates work. It sucks precious time from our day. It causes endless interruptions if not managed properly. It can control us.
I have read many a book, blog article and tweet on how to manage emails and thought I would share my recipe for slaying the email monster in an efficient manner.
Don’t have email open all the time and disable email notifications on your devices
You have zero control over when you receive an email - so the only thing you can control, is to not be notified at all. It is commonly acknowledged that there is a 10-15minute concentration decay after switching from your work to read/action an email. These little interruptions add up. Soon your day is consumed by these interruptions and you end up wondering where your day went.
So when should you check your email? I check mine twice a day. At 11am and 4pm. I block out 30minutes to deal with any emails that have arrived overnight until 11am. And then any that have arrived between 11am and 4pm. Is this a hard habit if you have spent the past 10 years checking email every 5 minutes? Absolutely. However, I encourage you to at least try this method. I can guarantee it will make you feel better and more productive when you are in control of your email, not vice-versa.
But what about the “urgent” email? There really is no such thing. We have been led to believe there is. But really, email is just an electronic version of normal mail. Normal mail gets delivered by the postman around lunchtime. We do not go out and check the mailbox every 5 minutes.
There are other ways of contacting you if the matter is “urgent”. Phone and text message. Obviously, people will try to get you to respond to an “urgent” email. Don’t fall for it. As soon as they see you respond to an “urgent” email quickly, every email from then on will be marked as “urgent” to try and get their email actioned before everyone elses.
Unsubscribe, Star Actionable Emails, Archive Ones to Keep, Delete the rest
Get emails from newsletters? So do I. I just don’t read them straight away. I have an email filter sets up so these skip my inbox and go to a ‘Newsletter’ folder. Then once a week, I go through these. If there is a newsletter you don’t read anymore - unsubscribe! By law, all newsletters sent from reputable lists will include an unsubscribe link in their footer. Click it.
The remainder of the process is quite methodical. Any emails left over will need to be read. If the email requires actioning, action it then and there, or ‘star’/’flag’ it. Then archive it. If no action is required then just archive it.
Your email program can show you ‘starred’/’flagged’ emails that you have archived. Use that as a list of emails left to action. Once you action them, un-star/un-flag.
Any emails that do not need actioning or keeping for future reference you can delete. If unsure of their future value, then archive. You can always find them again later.
Following these steps should leave you with an empty inbox twice a day. You will feel like you are back in control.
No ones job title is ‘Email Reader And Actioner’. Don’t let your day deteriorate to the point your only value to your company is responding to emails.