Stop Letting Email Suck Your Time & Energy: 5 Key Habits
Is there anyone on earth whose favorite part of work is managing their email? We didn’t think so.
You’ve likely heard about Inbox Zero, a rigorous approach to email management that aims to keep the inbox empty (or nearly empty) at all times. However, if you’re like us, and you receive a landslide of messages each day (or even each hour), that idea may sound like it will have you trapped within your email client every waking hour just to keep up.
While on the surface, keeping the inbox empty at all times sounds counterintuitive to productivity and deep work, Inbox Zero is actually designed to minimize the amount of time and energy spent on managing email. We’ve identified five habits that go!-mates use to both ensure important emails get a timely response and to create time and space for strategic creativity and collaboration.
- Be deliberate in your approach. Don’t begin your day by opening your email client, or even turning on your computer. When you get to work, spend five minutes at your desk writing down your top 2-3 priorities for the day. NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast aptly described our tendency to simply open the inbox and let work unfold—this strategy (or lack thereof)—will not lead you down the path toward productivity and great work.
- Folders for segmenting different types of emails. For us, keeping the inbox empty doesn’t mean immediately replying to or deleting every message. Implementing a folder structure aligned with the different types of messages you receive allows you to effectively batch email tasks and save messages for reference. For example, you may have folders for internal emails that require action and customer emails that require action, plus folders for each customer that contain messages you may want to refer to later.
- Time blocking. While these habits are designed to keep you out of your inbox as much as possible, you’ll have to get in there and respond to important messages at some point during your day. We recommend blocking 30-60 minutes on your calendar in the morning and/or afternoon to tackle your emails that require action. If you can’t resist the urge to check the inbox outside of these time blocks, try to only sort your inbox into your folder system for processing later.
- Filtering. We all get emails that we want to read at some point or need to have a record of receiving, but don’t ever demand our immediate attention. These messages are perfect candidates for automatic filtering and sorting into your folder structure. Automated reports, pay statements, and email newsletters are all great examples of messages to filter. You can filter messages into their appropriate folders by the sender, recipient, subject line, or body content in both Gmail and Outlook. Then, use the time blocking skills you learned in habit #3 to plan when you will review these messages.
- Leverage external software. There are a variety of software platforms designed to help professionals tame their unruly inboxes. Whether you implement the above habits or not, these tools can provide relief from what may feel like a never-ending onslaught of email messages. For example, SaneBox is a smart software that helps you prioritize important messages by keeping them in the inbox while sending unimportant emails to a folder for review later. The software learns along with you as you drag messages to different Sane folders. Implementing an automated email sorting software can help anyone save time and requires minimal effort to set up.
We hope you find these habits useful! If you’ve successfully implemented any of the above strategies for managing your email, we want to hear from you! Send us a tweet to tell us about it @goBRANDgo.