An Empty Inbox

Much has been written about how to tame one’s inbox. All of the suggestions would probably fill an inbox.

The February 2019 issue of Fast Company notes that 2.6 hours each day are spent on email, which amounts to 27 days each year.

That is a lot of time spent on email. And the topic was top of mind because as we were closing out 2018, a team member asked how the rest of us manage our inboxes. She was still wrestling with hers. We all shared our approaches, and reassured her that we, too, were still wrestling.

The takeaway for me is that one size doesn’t fit all. I use my inbox as a to do list. It works well for me. I also maintain folders, but they are for reference and filing. If I move an email into a folder without first taking action on it, I’ll likely never get back to it. I know others who move every email into a folder and then begin to take action.

For me, about 50 emails in my inbox is reasonable. More than that, and I know I am falling behind. In December just before I left the office for almost two weeks, a tiny miracle happened.

Actually, it was a huge miracle – I left with zero emails in my inbox. I was able to address everything either by handling it or scheduling it on my calendar for 2019.

What an incredible feeling. Here’s what an empty inbox looks like:

Empty Inbox.PNGOf course, within a few hours, the emails were arriving. They didn’t bother me, though, because most I could delete. And the few that remained were ready for me to handle in 2019.

Here are a few email tips to get you set for 2019:

  • Make your inbox work for you. That’s a great tip from Carson Tate, who offers a course in taming the inbox and is the author of “Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style.”
  • Set aside 20 minutes midweek to review your inbox to ensure that you have not overlooked any critical emails. I also delete those that require no action and offer no information.
  • Move reference emails to a retrieval system. I either file emails into clearly defined folders or I file the attachment into a World folder so I can retrieve it later.
  • Don’t reply to an email the second it arrives. You don’t want to set the expectation that you are always available. It’s important to focus on your priorities.
  • Stick to a schedule when checking and responding to email. This is advice I gleamed from Michael Smart. It resonated because he helped me to realize that emails are not my priority. They often are a means to reach my priorities – whether that is pitching a story and having it placed in a news outlet or tracking down information to write a blog post.

What tips do you have for taming your inbox?

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