E is for… Emails

The letter EWhen I planned out this post, I had decided to talk about the fabled Inbox Zero. I even had a screenshot, a beautiful one, of my empty inbox. I had maintained an empty inbox for almost a month. Clearly I had cracked the secret, and could share it with the world.

Today, sadly, when I actually have to write my post, I have 25 emails in my inbox which – whilst not the worst it has been by any means – is still much worse than it was.

The reason, of course, is lack of time. But that’s the point, of course. Maintaining Inbox Zero when you have no time.

The secret to getting to Inbox Zero is actually pretty mundane. Basically, you stop using your email as a to-do list. The second you open an email you do one of these three things:

  • Delete it
  • Reply to it (then delete/archive it)
  • Add it as a task to your actual to-do list (then delete/archive it)

And, to make you realise how difficult that actually is, here are some of the barriers I’ve hit:

  • Opening emails on my phone, and not being able to add it easily to my task list (I really like astrid for my to do list, as it lets me forward emails. But so far I’ve not made it a habit to do this on my phone yet).
  • Clear your inbox every day – book yourself ten-twenty minutes and just work systematically through every email. (I haven’t been doing this because I’ve been busy-busy-busy… hence why I check emails on my phone)
  • Thinking that ten second tasks are too short to bother putting on your task list… and then leaving them for ‘later’. (Definitely guilty of this, I got pinged through some blog comment emails — thank you, by the way! — and instead of going and replying, or scheduling myself time to reply, I just left the emails in my inbox as a reminder to myself. Not good!)

Whilst writing this post, I have managed to get myself back down to Inbox Zero. It only took fifteen minutes to respond to those blog comments, follow some people on Twitter and add the rest of the tasks to my to-do list. Score!

Now I just need to remember to keep it that way…

How do you keep your inbox under control?

4 thoughts on “E is for… Emails”

  1. Great tips! I try to clear my inbox at least once a day, but there are times when I go through a week without doing anything about it – then yikes!

  2. I think it’s a constant challenge. You keep up with it daily, or it eats you alive. There are times when I’ve had hundreds of emails waiting, most of them spam, as I try to pick through and find the ones that need my attention. It’s frustrating and irritating. But daily diligence is the thing I find that works best.
    This was a great post. You’ve got me thinking about the importance of keeping things tidy.

    1. It is a constant challenge, and one that has become steadily worse over the years! I certainly get an incredibly amount of email each day, and if I didn’t seriously sort it out each day I’d quickly run into trouble! Luckily, most emails take barely ten seconds to read and discard… but it does make me wonder if email is reaching the point of complete saturation.

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