So, what’s the state of your email inbox?
If you’re like most, you have hundreds if not thousands of unread messages. You’re selective in what you read (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and you might even feel stuck in perpetual email hell, depending on the nature of your work.
It is possible to achieve inbox sanity, though it’s going to require a different way of looking at things. Are you ready to be challenged?
Here I explore three simple email productivity tips to help you recover lost time.
Create Rules for Your Emails
At some point, you will be bombarded with opportunity. How you handle it is going to have a massive impact on your overall productivity.
Thus, the need for rules.
Do you accept guest posts on your blog?
Your answer needs to be a hard “yes” or hard “no,” so you can triage quickly. At the very least, you want to say, “we’ll accept guest submissions when X conditions are met.” And X conditions should be clearly defined, so you know when to say “yes.”
I open every email with the intention of deleting or archiving it. That’s one of my rules (you will find some of my other rules in this article).
Takeaway: set rules for your emails so that you aren’t paralyzed in deciding what to do with each message, whether it’s responding, forwarding, deleting, archiving, or otherwise. When you’re clear on next actions for each email, your productivity will increase.Set rules for your emails so that you aren’t paralyzed in deciding what to do with each message, whether it’s responding, forwarding, deleting, archiving, or otherwise. Click To Tweet
The least efficient way to respond to email of a certain type, especially those where a request is being made, is to write out unique answers individually. This will have an impact on your productivity.The least efficient way to respond to an email is to write out customized answers one by one. Click To Tweet
Instead, I suggest setting up templates. These templates should be customizable to the extent that you need them to be. But you should never start with a blank page or reinvent the wheel.
Apps like Gmail let you save messages as templates, and even if your provider doesn’t boast such functionality, you can still save your canned responses in plain text files.
Takeaway: whether you’re aware of it or not, you respond to the same kind of email all the time. And most of the time, your response is the same, too (if not, review the last point on creating rules). So, create templates for your most common types of responses and save them for later use.
Delete Last Year’s Emails
I’m probably about to make you a little nervous, though I’m not about to share anything I haven’t shared before.
One of my rules is to clean out last year’s emails. Sure, if there’s something specifically, I want for my memories, safekeeping, documentation, or otherwise, I will save it to the appropriate folder. Same goes for important contacts (don’t forget to save those before deleting your emails!).
But otherwise, your emails are just taking up space (even if just virtual space), and you’re basically never going to get around to responding to or reviewing those messages ever again.
Yep, you dropped some balls. You didn’t get back to some people. Projects fell through the cracks. You should have responded, and you didn’t.
But because of that, you live in a perpetual state of incompletion, and your mental RAM is over capacity. It’s time to complete what has already happened and live in the moment instead of recalling yesterday’s trauma.
Takeaway: Remember – one of my rules is to archive or delete every message, and the goal is to get to inbox zero. So, ideally, by the time a new year has rolled around, I’m already on top of last year’s messages. I do this so I can be complete with last year and focus on this year.
If you like the idea of causing more completion in life, and need actionable steps you can take to engage in the present fully, you will benefit from a reading of my Start Your Year the Right Way. There are plenty of great tips, prompts, and journaling exercises to help lead you to clarity.
It’s going take some work, and a stronger will to get your inbox sorted. But you can do it.
What did you discover here? What step will you be taking towards inbox sanity today?
See what else I’m up to by checking out my link in bio.