Oh boy, I know that's a bit of a cheeky title but I do mean it. I'm not saying don't use email but instead of "checking" it all the time, start PROCESSING it.
Why "checking" your email is ineffective
Just like walking past the dirty laundry or the pile of dishes - just seeing what you have to do doesn't actually get you doing it. All it does it add to your inner monologue or inner to-do list plays over and over until you do get it done.
Just think of all the headspace you'll clear if you act on your emails instead of reading them over and over thinking to yourself "I sure need to reply to that one." Not only that but you'll feel more productive and pleased with your email flow.
Every time you look at your phone and read an email but don't respond. Every time you open your inbox for a few minutes and then do something else - these habits are not clearing your emails or getting anything done.
The first step is to limit the number of times you go to your inbox. Choose set times of the day to allot strictly to email. Depending on your email flow it might be two thirty-minute slots, it might be longer - choose what works best for you. Then during this time, set aside everything else and process your emails.
If you're really worried about missing something, you can include a note in your email signature to advise people of your habits. Or set an auto-responder to let people know. Something like, "Thank you for your email! Due to my current workload I am only checking email at 11am and 4pm. If you need anything immediately please call me on my mobile. Thank you and have a great day!" Or you might say, "I'm taking excellent advice from Assistia and processing my emails at 3:30pm each day. I'm definitely getting more done without so much energy wasted on "checking" emails and not actioning them! If you need to discuss something before my next email block, please contact me on my mobile."
How to start Processing your emails
Some synonyms of process are: deal with, attend to, see to, sort out, handle, take care of, action, organize, and manage. All of these mean take action. The main actions related to email are often referred to as the 4 D's and they are as follows:
- Delete - If you don't need to refer to it again, someone really didn't need to CC you, or it's advertising you aren't interested in, just delete it. (Bonus points for unsubscribing!)
- Do - If the reply or research required is 3 minutes or less, just action it right away and then archive or delete the email.
- Delegate - Can someone else do this? Send it to them! Whether it's work-related (you need to create some images for your guest blog appearance - get your designer to send them) or personal (researching the hotel for a girls weekend - send it to the well-traveled gal in the group). Again, archive or delete it once you've delegated it.
- Defer - When the reply (or email) is lengthy and needs focused time spent on it, block off a 15 or 30 minute appointment in your day and action it all on its own. Perhaps you need to have a conversation with a client first, or maybe you need to pull together some information from different sources - save this to do later so that you can continue working through your inbox.
So what is inbox zero?
If you read a lot of the nerdier productivity content on the web (which you must because you're here!) then you'll surely have heard about "inbox zero" before. This means clearing your inbox to empty when you process it.
It's possible. Especially if you follow the steps above. Everything you action or only need for reference, archive it. Never let it just stay in the inbox. Use labels or folders to manage where it's archived so that you can retrieve it again later. (If you aren't going to retrieve it later then why aren't you deleting it?)
Sometimes this needs a kickstart of emptying the inbox so you have a fresh start. Go for it if that will help you address your emails properly. Just be sure that each day you go through each one and Do it, Delete it, Delegate it, or Defer it. And always, always archive stuff you've dealt with.
But what if I want all those newsletters?
I know that some of the email newsletters you receive do provide awesome and inspiring information and articles. You don't have to unsubscribe if you do use the information but there is a great tool for making them easier to manage. Sign up for unroll.me and they will roll up all of your newsletters into one easy-to-peruse email each day. You can control which ones are included and the time of day you receive it. All of the emails are still accessible from your account but they won't clog up your inbox. It's a great thing.
So, try the steps above and see what you think! If you have any questions about how to be more effective with your emails (or in general!) then get in touch with me or leave your comments below!