For last week’s challenge, we got rid of one thing every day. This was in an effort to decrease our environmental (and therefore mental/emotional) clutter in our homes or personal lives.
This same outer chaos/inner chaos phenomena happens in other areas of our lives too. Today, with our focus being on occupational wellness, we’re going to look at another, sneakier form of clutter.
How many emails do you have in your personal inbox right now? How about in your work inbox? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of email we have, let alone the time and attention needed to wade through them all.
There’s a common productivity term- “inbox zero“- which captures the idea of a perfectly managed email account. It means less stress and more productivity.
According to the man who coined the term, Merlin Mann, inbox zero is about “how to reclaim your email, your attention, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many messages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.”
For some people that means actually getting your inbox down to zero emails. For others it means different things. I have found that when I keep my work email down to very few (or zero) emails in the inbox, my productivity improves.
So where does this leave us?
The challenge for this week is to get control of your email (inbox zero, perhaps) and then maintain that control each day. Here are a few practical ways to do so:
- Unsubscribe from stuff that’s not adding value to your life. At the bottom of an email, if you’re on an email list, there should be an “unsubscribe” link. Unsubscribe from all subscriptions that you aren’t actually interested in receiving. I’ve not used it myself, but I’ve heard good things about the free service Unroll.me. It’s basically a way to unsubscribe from multiple email subscriptions with one click, and you can find it here.
- Immediately deal with simple emails. If it’s going to take you just a few minutes to deal with an email, do it right away. Things like quick questions (just reply with an answer) or informational memos (save the information or delete it) can be tackled instantly rather than letting them sit around hogging inbox space.
- Use folders. I have a folder on my personal email account for shopping-related things like coupons and sales. I have set up rules in my email account so if an email is from a retailer it goes straight into the Coupons folder. If I’m going shopping, all the ads and coupons are together so I can easily access them. At work, I have a folder for webinar info since I’m constantly getting webinar emails that I don’t want to delete. This way, I have the info but it’s not clogging up my inbox. Be sure to regularly go through your folders as well.
- Set aside email processing time. Part of managing email is not letting email manage you. If you find yourself a slave to your email, consider setting aside time to process everything until it’s done, then do it again the next day. This can help you to actually get through everything and can also help you to avoid using constant email-checking as a means of procrastination.
Using these tips, it is possible to get to a place where your email is managed and maintained. If your inbox is wildly out of control, consider the idea of email bankruptcy (read more about that here). I’m excited to really focus on managing email this week and I hope you join me!
Share all your email tips in the comments section below. I’d love to hear them!
One email I hope you’ll love to receive (maybe in a Blogs folder?) is my weekly post update. You can sign up here. You can also follow along with the challenge by liking TheThrivingSelf Facebook page and by using the hashtag #TheThrivingChallenge on Facebook or Instagram.