With the average worker receiving 121 emails per day, without good email management practices, the clutter in your inbox will creep back rapidly. In order to keep the clutter away, you need to create a system that works for you to manage the email you’ve received.
- Archive old email.
- Adjust email subscription settings for high volume senders.
- Schedule Email Time.
- Use Automatic Responses.
- Adopt new email best practices with your incoming emails.
As with most things, the Pareto Principle holds true here: 20% of our emails will consume 80% of our focus. Don’t fight it. Welcome that handful of emails and quickly handle the remaining 80%.
Getting Things Done (GTD) Method
According to Merlin Mann, the zero is not a reference to the number of messages in an inbox; it is “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.” Mann’s point is that time and attention are finite and when an inbox is confused with a “to do” list, productivity suffers.
For every incoming email, you perform one of five actions.
- Delete: Is this email relevant to me?
- Delegate: Am I the best person to handle this?
- Respond: Can I respond in two minutes or less?
- Defer: Will this take longer than two minutes?
- Do: Can we complete the task in two minutes?
Start thinking of email like a messaging service.
An entire movement exists around the idea of writing every email in five sentences or less. There’s even a website you can reference in your signature if you’re worried about coming across as rude.
- Less is more
It’s an email — not an essay, a thesis paper, or a book. One-line emails are okay, 10 paragraph emails are not. Bullets are great. Big blocks of text are not.
- Lose the emotions and focus on the doing.
Switching tasks causes us to work less effectively and efficiently, Research suggests that we lose as much as 40% of our productivity by hopping between multiple things. Opening up email is no exception.
Set up a system that works with your brain instead of against it. Stop peeking at your inbox, and pick a handful of designated times throughout the day to have time for communications and correspondence.