Email is the overload that is killing people, slowly and painfully. People get to the email, and stay in the email. Unfortunately for many, email is a task manager, and that is just plain wrong. It is preventing you from having a clean work environment where you can have everything important in one place tied together.
On quite the couple of occasions I glanced at people’s email inboxes. And they were exploding with completely unnecessary garbage. There is just too much going on there. And than I’ve sent an email to Alpha Efficiency readers, asking them what was their number one productivity struggle that they face. I’ve received more than 20 emails complaining, on, yep you guessed it, email!
If your inbox feels like a place, where you could easily lose everything you’ve put into it, than this is the article written just for you.
Now before we start…
Now before we get to the email management itself I want you to do a couple of things.
- Start by getting rid of your current email subscriptions to blogs and news sites. When blogs and websites add new content, you can generally choose to be notified via email or RSS subscription. Choose RSS. Always. (I recommend the combo of Google Reader and Reeder App for iOS and OS X).
- Unsubscribe from Groupon’s, Newsletters, Promotions and various other crap that is cluttering your Inbox.
- Turn OFF Facebook, Twitter, Forums and all other social media notifications. If you still want them to reach your email, you certainly don’t want to see them in your Inbox, make them go directly go to some archives folder, where it won’t bother you the moment it happens. Gmail handles this perfectly. You are going to see the notifications anyway when you log onto those websites. So why get the same notification twice, that just doesn’t make sense.
These three things alone are going to reduce your email overload by 65–80% in same cases, even more! If you aren’t sure how to do it, ask someone who does. Really, I’ve seen countless people that don’t even know how to unsubscribe from a newsletter, let alone set up filters. They really want to, but they’ve came to me to ask me . There is quite a lot of people who aren’t tech savvy, and if you are one of them, that is not the reason for you not to do it.
There is Google, Youtube, and countless tutorials out there that can help you leverage that. If on the other hand, you are tech savvy, don’t get offended, because I know that there are people out there, who will benefit from this information.
I’ll repeat, it’s not a shame not to know, but it is shameful not to try.
Once you get rid of all the spam creating evil machines, it’s time for the next step. Keeping in mind that your email is sacred, and you don’t want to give it to just about anyone. For those cases:
Create a secondary email adress
Or even better yet, if you want to simplify, you can always give out your Facebook address. Facebook email address is clean and simple, and will swallow any amount of spam you send it, and it won’t reach your inbox.
The Inbox Nirvana and clearing to zero
Inbox is kinda a sacred place for me. I have a special state of inbox, and I like it to be zero emails. While I certainly would love to check my email less frequently, every time I check it, I find it empty. The moment when I reduce the size of the emails I get through the three evils I’ve previously mentioned, achieving Inbox zero is not nearly as hard as you think. Maintaining the email monster is piece of cake.
But I have an email beast right now, what should I do?
I will assume that you started looking for a solution when you’ve started facing the beast. So maybe you’re reading this, and you’re like, yeah, yeah, but I’ve got 3684 unread messages right now, what should I do?
Now there are a couple of solutions for people who are facing big problems:
Create a new email
Bulk archive everything and than deal with it, as it comes along.
Both of these are kinda radical solution, but if any of those junk emails was of any importance, I believe you would get a second email, or even a phone call from that specific person.
You are not going to miss out on anything if you just bulk archive the emails.
Before you proceed with this article I would love to know that you are getting on a clean slate. In case you can’t get rid of everything, my advice is to select it all, mark as read and just archive it, or move it to some other folder. This way, you didn’t lose really anything, but you’ve managed to clean your mail. This way you are forcing yourself to learn to use search, instead of using your memory to remember where the email was located the last time you saw it. Also you can star and archive.
How to process your inbox
Now for the purpose of processing, I am really doing it quickly and efficiently. First of all, beside emails, I have 3 extra tools that help me do this:
These three tools meld into each other on my Mac. I love the way Postbox integrates with Evernote for all of my reference materials. Omnifocus is system wide, so any email is right click away from ending up in my Task management Inbox.
Every mail that comes my way has three destinies:
Archive – Send to task manager – Send to reference material
- It gets archived, and I never bother with it again
- It gets sent to my task manager (Omnifocus – I use email link, so once I click on the task in Omnifocus, I can always quickly get back to the email in one simple click)
- Or it gets stored in Evernote for later reference. (Bills, invoices, warranties…)
That’s it. Three things that can happen, and three tools. Simple as 1,2,3… Now in order for this system to work, you have to follow this almost religiously. I want you to pay big attention to this one: TOUCH EVERY EMAIL ONLY ONCE. Once you touch it, you decide, does it go to archive, do you make a task out of it, or you simply save it in your reference material. You do it only once.
These tools that I’ve previously mentioned aren’t the only solutions to email management that are available to you. This can be easily completed with the tools that are free and available, but if you are serious about your productivity, I am certain that you will choose the best out of the best for yourself.
So if you don’t have some of these tools, it’s not the end of the world. You can find the different tools, that might be better suited for your workflow or your platform. Evernote can replace any task manager out there, and Postbox can be replaced by any other competent third party mailing client. Do your research figure out which one suits you.
Few last thoughts
Ever since I figured out how to run my Email, I get substantially less emails, and substantially spend more time working or relaxing. Email is a communication tool, and nothing more. It helps me get things done, as much as any other tool.
So even if you do get addicted to email, and tend to check it ever so often in order to get your “dopamine fix” of the day, you will more often than not find it empty, and it will allow let you have a sense of peace.
While Inbox zero is amazing thing to achieve, it is not something you absolutely must do. Maintaining this level of inbox processing requires you to actually change your email habits, it requires you to touch everything once, and never return to it.
Setting a designated time for emails is also a cool way, but I tend to be flexible. As sometimes people share me the documents over this medium, and let me know about it, I am not going to be weird, and wait for my email time. I am just going to get in and get it, and get out.
Merlin man’s final tip
Merlin man is the founder of the idea called Inbox Zero. But he stopped bothering with email, he just went out there, created a label in Gmail, and named it >>null<<, bookmarked it, and whenever he wants to access email, he uses that link. That way every time he gets into email, only thing he can do is compose. Only reason why I am not following this idea, is because I love having offline access to all of my information, hence desktop client will always have massive advantage over the web client, at least in my case.
Well, this was the massive article, I’ve been writing it from three large chunks, and I believe I summed up pretty much everything awesome regarding email.
Save Email Management To-Do List:
Put this post to action. Don’t dwell and loose time on your email. This shouldn’t take you longer than 20 minutes. If it does, go with the radical solutions. Once you’re done, you should be able to maintain your email, if you acquire a 3 step habit.
- Get rid of your current website email subscriptions
- Unsubscribe from newsletters, groupons and other promotions.
- Turn off all social media email notifications.
- In case of email beast decide wether to: create new email, or mass archive all the emails
- Learn the inbox management process: Archive – Send to task manager – Send to reference material
- Use the email management tools, or find their replacements
- Get your head out of that inbox and do something productive.