Are you drowning in your inbox everyday? Do you have thousands of old emails in there? Do you get stressed out when you open your email?
Fear no more, because today we are going to talk about some secrets on how to detox your inbox and get rid of that stress once and for all.
With the system I use I leave work everyday with peace of mind knowing that my inbox is clear. Today I want to share the method I use to manage my email inbox so that you can learn this effective method and start using it as well.
Imagine that whenever you recieved a letter in your mailbox you would keep it there forever. You would be exhausted everytime you opened that thing. Mail from several years back would pile up but you you wouldn’t deal with it.
This is the equivalent of you having an assorted mail inbox. The problem is that you don’t see it since it’s digital and doesn’t take up any physical space. But the space in your brain… well, that’s a different story.
Someday isn’t a good day to clear your inbox
Do you often think: “Someday I will tidy that thing up. Someday”
I’ve been there. I know how you feel. But i’ve discovered that someday isn’t a day of the week. When I FINALLY started to clean up my inbox, it was such a relief that I had to share the system I use with everybody i knew.
You might get overwhelmed g to recieve a flood of emails everytime you open your inbox. It can be like attending to a crowded event, which might drain your energy if you stay there for too long.
Clear inbox = clear mind
I strongly believe that if stuff is on your mind your mind isn’t clear.
When you start to see your inbox as an extension of what was going on in your mind, you can suddenly start to see things more clearly. For a long time I just let my emails stay in my inbox. I read the incoming mail, but I didn’t handle them in a proper way.
It was a life changing experience when I realized that emails kind of reflect one’s thoughts: way too many assorted thoughts, nothing in order, thoughts that you don’t have to deal with until next year and thoughts you don’t have to deal with at all.
1. The Eisenhower method and the 4 D’s
Get inspired by the Eisenhower method to decide if a mail is either
- important and urgent
- important and not urgent
- urgent and not important
- not urgent, not important
From that, further decide what you want to do with the email once you recieve it. For this you can use the “4 D’s”-method:
If an email takes less than 2 minutes to deal with, do it right away. If you estimate that it’s going to take longer, defer it by flagging it and setting the flag to a certain date or time.
2. Create useful folders
Do you keep a system of folders? They might seem like a good way to organize your e-mails, but chances are that if you create too many, you can drown in them as well. The way to go is to create useful folders using this method:
Start by creating a new folder and name it “old emails”. Then move ALL the emails that you currently have in your inbox to this folder. You have to make this radical move so you can get a sense of what it feels like to have a clean inbox . If there are still any unprocessed emails there, deal with them from the “old emails” folder since this is just a transition period.
Other useful folders:
- Inbox: this is where all the incoming emails enter the system. Everything is assorted, unorganized and in a mess.
- Backlog: this is the folder where you put the pending emails that you don’t deal with right away. Flag them and set a due date to the flag. This way, you don’t have to bother with emails that are not urgent yet, which will clear your mind.
- Processed mails: This is where you put the backlog mails when you have dealth with them in a proper manner. The difference between the “processed mails” folder and the “old mails” folder is that you might have to keep them for reference for a while, if something comes up regarding that email. It’s a little like when you declutter your closet or decide to clear out some of your childrens old stuff they no longer need. It can be a sort of “safety net” IF they want that stuffed panda bear back all of a sudden! It’s there to assure you that you don’t miss out on anything.
- To-read folder: This is the folder where you put emails that have attachments to them. Schedule time in your calendar to read through them when you have the time.
3: Schedule time blocks to manage your email inbox.
Studies show that we are crappy at multitasking. What we really do when we think we are multitasking is actually shift tasking. We simply don’t know how to do more than one thing at a time efficiently. The amount of time that the average person needs to get back to a task once they were interrupted can be up to 25 minutes between tasks! That is a lot of wasted time.
Set up time blocks for email management twice a day and try to resist the urge to check your email first thing in the morning. Start the day with planning out your tasks instead. That way you stay more proactive throughout the rest of the day.
If you want to manage your inbox in a productive manner, set aside time blocks when you read and respond to your emails.
Related article: Stop multitasking start single tasking
4: Turn off notifications
This is a no brainer really, but make sure you have your email notifications turned off. If you’ve implemented the tip above, you don’t have to be notified whenever you recieve a new email. You will deal with it when the time comes.
5. Never read an email more than once
Lots of people have the habit of scanning through their email inbox everyday, but they don’t really read what’s in there. This way they have to read the same email over and over again to get a grasp of what’s in there.
Make it a rule of thumb that you never read an email more than once and then process it right away. This saves you a ton of time.
6. Set rules for incoming email conversations
This is a handy tip that helps you get a grasp of what’s going on in your assorted inbox at a glance. For example you can set rules for whenever you’re cc:d in a mail conversation, or when you recieve mail from a specific person.