Email Inbox Management
Email Inbox Management
In my line of work, I am often asked, “How can I manage my email inbox better?” In fact, it’s probably one of the most stress-inducing areas that small business owners identify when it comes to organisation. Not only does it annoy people, but it distracts, causes anxiety, and sometimes, feelings of total overwhelm.
The Information Age
We live in an information age; we are more ‘reachable’ now than we have ever been. There’s email, SMS, PMs, DMs, Messenger, chat functions…it’s never ending. Whilst some of this contact is useful and necessary, there’s often people we don’t even know clamouring for our time and attention too! Emails are often the office workers’ primary method of communication, and the barrage is usually unrelenting.
So, tonight, as I once again saw the ‘Enjoy your empty inbox’ message, I thought it’s time to share with you how I keep my inbox content to a minimum.
I think I’ve always been a bit of an organisational neat freak. I’m simply happier and life feels better when everything is where it is supposed to be. However, there have been times in my career when my role has been so busy that managing the email inbox has been nearly impossible. In these instances, my solution was simply, stay back late, weekend work, or work from home to get it all under control again. Sound familiar?
Usually this is where people tell me they have thousands of emails and their solution to finding any piece of information is the Search function.
But earlier this year, I read an amazing book called ‘How to be a productivity ninja’, by Graham Allcott. If I could take one bit of advice from this book, it would be the idea that your ‘to-do’ list should be separate from your emails. The following advice is thanks to Graham Allcott, with my own spin.
I truly believe that the success or failure in managing your email inbox actually comes from you changing your mindset, and not from the introduction of more folders or flags.
Email Inbox Management Tips
- Your email inbox is a place for information to land and information to take off. Think of it like a runway. There’s no loitering on runways and that’s how it should be with your inbox. Send the info, receive the info. If it’s going to go back and forward, you’re probably better to have a phone conversation.
- Your email inbox should not be used as a to-do list. This has changed my business life! There are so many fabulous apps and pieces of software that allow you to organise and prioritise the things you need to do. I like Asana, but there’s so many to choose from.
- Do you get paid to send and receive emails? Most people don’t. Work where your paid work lives. That might be a server, design software, accounting programs, physical paperwork. Work there…and not in your email inbox.
- Because we are human, we crave connection. Receiving emails make us feel important (most of the time). But this connectedness doesn’t equal productivity. If you want real productivity, close your email down and focus on the work. If you need to feel connected, make a phone call.
- Be ruthless. What is the worst thing that will happen if you delete an email? Will your business fold? Will life cease to exist? So many emails are just simple emails like ‘Yep, see you there,’ or ‘Awesome, thanks.’ Delete that rubbish. It serves you no purpose at all.
Email inbox decision-making
Here are the 7 D’s – from Graham Allcott. He says there are only 7 possible options to deal with any email you receive. I really like this because it stops the procrastination.
- Delete it or file it.
- Do it now, if it’s super quick.
- Do it later – onto the to-do list and prioritised accordingly.
- Decide no action is required – delete it or file it for future reference.
- Delegate it to someone else.
- Defer the decision – the add a calendar reminder to decide later when you have more information or circumstances have changed.
- Decide no action is required – but add a calendar reminder to follow up with someone else to make sure they take action.
Like anything, Email Inbox Management is a skill you can learn. I hope these tips help you to avoid email overwhelm.
Drop me a comment if they were useful.