My INBOX broke the 1000 barrier this week. It was unmanageable long before the 1000 mark, but breaking four figures has inspired me to take action. So I've done a little reading online and found some great ideas. Some a little too extreme for me, but some suggestions seem like they will work for me and they might work for you as well.
Believe it or not, I felt like this just sneaked up on me. But I found myself falling further and further behind every day. Some days it wasn't so bad, but others felt like a flood of emails coming in. As I was trying to read and answer, I couldn't get one out of the way before more buried me. I used to think it so rude that someone would not respond or acknowledge my email. Now I understand that the other party may not have even known they had received an email from me. I can see how easy it is to overlook an email in the sea of digital communications.
What I found out is that there is no easy fix and it will take commitment and a change in my habits. But as a trade off, I will feel more in control and be more responsive to customers, vendors and friends. So here's what the gurus recommend:
- Empty your INBOX everyday. This is the goal. It doesn't mean you answer every email, but it does mean you process every email.
Keep moving and don't get bogged down. Move fast and read each email only once. Take one of the following actions:
- DO – Take action. If it can completed in less than two minutes, do it now and be done with it.
- DELEGATE – Forward to whoever can take action. Get it off you list and out of your inbox.
- DEFER – If it is something that you have to do but it can't be done in less than two minutes, defer until later. Put it on you "To-Do" to be completed at some scheduled time in the future.
- DELETE – You know what to do here, but be decisive.
FILE – If you might need it later, move it into a separate folder in the inbox. This is where it gets really interesting.
Michael Hyatt, in his blog post Yes, You Can Stay on Top of Email has a brilliant idea. Instead of using multiple folders (like I do), just file everything in one folder called "Processed Mail." He says not to create an elaborate set of folders. The more complicated system leads to procrastination. You will a have to decide, Should I file under Tami because it's from her or under Max because it's about him? And what if the email covers more than one subject? It gets very complicated.
There are other more extreme measures. Leo Babauta, in Killing Email: How and Why I Ditched My Inbox, is trying to do away with email. For him, other methods of mobile digital communications like Twitter, IM, Skype and wikis work well for him. But I don't think they would for me.
So I'm going to give it a shot. Having 1,021 emails in your INBOX is ridiculous! I'm starting Monday at ZERO! Email me if you've got some other good ideas on beating email overload. Check that, don't email me.
Advantage Printing is a commercial print and marketing service provider serving small to mid-sized businesses, nonprofits and churches.
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