20 Apr 2016

Why in the world would you want to get down to an empty email inbox?

How much time do you spend looking for that email someone sent you? Do you have hundreds or thousands of emails in your inbox? Wouldn’t it be easier to find what you need if you only had a couple of dozen emails to look thru rather than a couple of thousands? Inbox management might be for you.

What do I mean by inbox management? It means putting away everything that comes into your inbox every day. What???? How do we do that without driving ourselves crazy? It’s easier than it seems.

  • Turn off the bell that alerts you to new emails. This may be the hardest thing to do. You do not need to act on every email the second it comes in unless you are a day trader or some other profession that requires an instant response. These are far fewer than we believe. We are trained like Pavlov’s dogs to respond immediately to the bell, but almost anything can wait an hour or more before it’s answered. For most people, even with a junk or spam filter, a huge percentage of the inbox is junk mail. You don’t need to distract yourself with the latest and greatest money making scam that crosses your e-desk. Studies have shown that we lose much more time than we think we do when we rapidly shift mental activities – such as working on a project and doing email – and more will be accomplished in the same amount of time if you can avoid this switching of mental gears.
  • Set a time (or several) every day where you sit down to tackle the new emails. By doing them all at once you will save a LOT of time and your focus will be where it needs to be, not skittering among the other projects you have going. You can always jot down a note for yourself and get to it after you are done with the emails.
  • Set up automatic filters to pre-sort your emails. This works well for inter-office as well as client emails. If they sort even before you open them you can go directly to the most important things first. This is particularly great for clients. If your client’s inbox is bolded when you get on, you can go directly to that folder rather than scanning your entire inbox to find it. Your response rate will be much quicker this way. You will also have all of the other emails in the same spot for further reference.
  • Unsubscribe to emails you don’t want to receive any more. Legitimate businesses are required to give you this ability, though they all hide the notice in tiny print at the bottom of the email. This includes ads and newsletters. If you think you may want to read them later, set up a filter instead to get them out of your way for you.
  • Some people benefit from a “waiting for reply” folder. This prevents unanswered email from being forgotten. Integrated email systems will also allow you to set up a task or calendar entry to check for responses and send out reminders.
  • If more than one person accesses this account, set up separate folders for each person to act like a “personal inbox” of emails moved from the main inbox. This way, everyone isn’t always looking at the same emails to see if they need to act or missing something that belongs to them. The goal would be to keep each of those at zero too.
  • If you do not want to purge your inbox every day, do it a minimum of once a week. I do recommend daily simply so you don’t have to re-read the emails to know where to file it. Re-reading costs you more time than doing it daily.

Does all of this really make a difference?

Some people tell me that they just do a search to find the info they need. Then my question is: Do you know exactly what to search for? Who sent it? Is there info from other sources? What was that exact subject? Do you have similar subjects related to multiple people/projects? How many emails come back in the search results?

As the number of emails in your inbox grows your search time also goes up. Granted, with modern computers that time can be small but if you do a search on a smaller volume it will be quicker.

I don’t know about you, but I find that every minute I save is a minute where I can either work on something else, or have that much shorter of a day. What do you think? Could you use a few more minutes in your day? Try the zero inbox and see.


© 2016 – Maria Spetalnik, CPO ®

About the Author

is an author, a speaker and the founder of Conquer the Clutter.

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