Every day we have large amounts of information coming at us from all different areas! One area in particular that can be very stressful to get under control is email. If you don’t have a system for processing emails they can build up and important things can sometimes get missed! Our email inbox was never initially designed to be a task management system yet the majority of people often use it for this purpose. Spending your whole day working out of your inbox can mean that you spend a lot of time doing ‘busy work’ and just responding to emails as and when they come instead of getting higher focus things done.
Here are six email tips that you can use to achieve inbox zero:
1. Process your inbox at least once per day: Be realistic and set a time limit. You could start with one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. Try to cut this time down if possible when you get more efficient at clearing your email. Pick times when you are not as productive or needing a break. Save your brain space when it is fresher for more important work other than email.
2. Let go of the need to respond straight away: I think we can feel like we are being more productive if we respond quickly and get other people’s requests completed as soon as possible. I think it is really important to respond with a one line email saying “I’m working on this” or “email received” and then an estimated time that you will have the work completed. Let go of the need to feel like you have to complete everything there and then – depending on your job within 24 hours might be an acceptable timeframe.
3. Email Processing tips: If something is going to take you less than two minutes always do it there and then! It is not worth the time used to manage the task so just get it done right away. Anything that is going to take more time needs to go into a task management system so that you don’t forget it and you are able to prioritise it against the other important tasks in your day. I have a simple next action system set up in Trello for all of my personal tasks. These are my current boards that have set up – next month, this month, this week, today, hold, done. You can set it up however you may like I often change how my boards are set up. I am currently using Asana for all of my work tasks. Don’t however ‘lose’ tasks in your system make sure you assign a due date to everything that you need to get done. Something I am also doing at the moment is putting an estimated time on tasks. It helps with planning. Then ideally you can then schedule time directly onto your calendar to get things done. Batch ‘like’ tasks together eg. phone calls/errands/research for extra effectiveness.
4. Schedule calendar events: If something has a date and a time attached to it – it is an event and it can be scheduled on your calendar. I will also copy and paste address info. or what to bring right into the event description in my google calendar. Avoid email hunting if at all possible later on. Have all of the information on your calendar. If I don’t want to pay a bill straight away I will also schedule anything that needs to be paid on my calendar on the set day that I process all bills. If you use Google calendar it is really easy to schedule straight from your inbox – you do however need to double check it!
5. Set up filters: I really like Gmail because it filters out social media and promotional email and you can just check on those tabs when you want to. If you don’t use Gmail I recommend that you unsubscribe to everything that you possibly can or set up filters to help sort through email. You could also try having separate emails – one for work and one for subscriptions etc.
6. Archive everything! Absolutely everything gets archived. Nothing stays in my inbox. It is so easy to use the email search function to find anything you want. I used to have an elaborate folder system but that is largely useless as you can just search and find information easily using someone’s email or a keyword that you remember.
Do you struggle with staying on top of your email?