by Carley Knobloch
The number of emails we receive has become astronomical. Some of us get, on average, a hundred emails a day—that's ONE HUNDRED demands on our time and attention EACH DAY, just from our computer!! (Wasn't that thing supposed to make life easier?) Yes, your inbox is full of critical information, time-sensitive requests and important events. But, they're buried under tons of time-wasting garbage.
With life as busy as it is, we just don't have time for this nonsense. We don't have hours to peruse long ramblings and write lengthly correspondence. We need to get in, process the good stuff, and get out. The key to making peace with your inbox is to gain control of it. Easier said then done.
But try these 10 tips to get you closer to a leaner, meaner and more manageable inbox:
1. Sort and delete.
Let's face it, most of the stuff in your inbox is digital junk. Invitations to parties from last month, questions you've already answered, expired coupons and those annoying chain letters. Sort emails by name to group the junk and make it easy to delete. Click "From" to get your emails lined up, then delete with wild abandon!
2. Edit your social media alerts.
Do you really need to know the second someone wants to be your friend on Facebook? And what about those Twitter direct messages—aren't you tweeting all day anyway? Give your inbox a break from all those social media alerts. Delete them and then turn off all automatic notifications that you don't need to receive. If you can't part with them, set up a filter so they bypass your inbox to a dedicated folder.
Take a look at daily or weekly newsletters you receive but don't read. Pick a handful and take a few moments to unsubscribe. Take away the stress of one more thing to read and free up time to read the ones you really have interest in.
4. Get to the chewy center.
Spend 10 minutes each day moving through your emails one at a time to find the "chewy center"— the actionable items in each one. Ask yourself, "What is this? And what does it require of me?" Some contain dates and or tasks— put those in your calendar or on your to-do list. Some need you to fire off quick delegations or responses.
Anything lengthy should be recorded as a to do list item to be dealt with later. The key is not to DO anything: This is your time to process your inbox, so keep moving! When you’re done with each email, file it or trash it… leave nothing behind.
5. Time for storage.
Holding on to emails from yesterdays past? Once you've sorted and deleted out all of the email junk mail, send the old emails packing. Make a new folder called "Archives" and drag every 6 week-old-or-older email into it. You can process these slowly over time, and if you need something (you likely won't), you'll know where to find it. This can be a life-transforming exercise. In fact, take a moment and behold your happy inbox. So care-free and spacious!
6. Check less, process more.
We tend to check and check and check our emails all day in the name of staying on top of things. But all this checking just makes us busier, not more productive. Until you process your email, you're just reading it over and over, draining yourself of time and energy. Make it a habit to check less and build processing time into each day.
7. The daily 10.
Process your emails for 10 minutes each day to get as much out of your inbox as possible. In fact, pencil it in on your calendar or to do list daily, this way you are much more likely to get it done. Consistency is important for creating new habits.
8. Be a weekend warrior.
On the weekends, spend 20 minutes processing that archives folder so nothing goes unaddressed. If you have leftover time, use it to make sure your task lists are up to date, and your inbox is squeaky clean.
9. Respect the time block.
Do your 10 minutes daily, and 20 weekend minutes... and no more. Time blocks help you stay focused and avoid burn-out. Don't get sidetracked. Remember, this time is set aside to process only. Beware of the click-through... follow one little link and you could be lost in cyberland for hours!
10. Just do it.
You've processed your email, you have your calendars and to-do lists up to date. You've filed what you need, and deleted what you don't. Your psychic baggage has been cleared and you're not wondering what important information is lurking in your inbox. Now, all that's left is to do your work. Send those responses! Work on those projects! You'll marvel at how much more gets done!
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