How to keep your email inbox clean for 2018
I am amazed by how many people leave one of the most central parts of their work lives in chaos and, in the process, compromise their own productivity and ability to do more of what matters most to them.
I am talking about failing to keep your email inbox clean. Ideally once a day, you should be completely emptying your email inbox. Why? Because you should not spend any time rereading emails when you visit your inbox. Rereading wastes time and creates mental noise and stress. Instead, each email should be triaged and dealt with once.
- Emails with no useful information and no actions required should be deleted immediately.
- Emails with some useful information, but no actions required, should be filed to a “reference” folder immediately (almost every email system out there has a great search feature, so don’t worry – you will always be able to find it).
- Emails you can act upon in less than two minutes should simply be dealt with right away. For example, if someone emailed you asking you to forward them a file or email to which you have easy access, do it and delete the email.
- Emails that will take longer to deal with and need timely action should be saved to a “daily action” folder for prompt follow-up.
- Emails that can wait more than a few days should be filed in a “weekly action” folder.
- Emails that you might want to deal with, but not anytime soon, can be deleted under the assumption “if it is important it will come back again” theory, or they can be moved to a “monthly action folder”.
You can then review the folders at the appropriate frequency, as opposed to having a chaotic inbox staring you in the face all the time. Why should you keep seeing emails that you are not going to act upon until later if at all? Organizing your inbox will save you from that distraction.
I have followed a practice like this for years. It sets my productivity apart from people less inclined to manage their email better. This is one of my secret sauces for success and I hope you will consider adopting it. By doing this, you will get your most important stuff done in less time. Not a bad goal for 2018!
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