How many emails do you have in your inbox right now? I'd wager it is more than zero. :) Probably a lot more. I know that is the case for me. I've decided that in 2018 I want to pursue the mythical unicorn known as "Email Inbox Zero" and I'm hoping you can help. I'll share 12 tips with you below, but would also really like to read your tips in the Comments section too. Have you ever achieved Email Inbox Zero? How?
In our modern world of work and in our personal lives, emails come in fast and furiously all.of.the.time. They never stop. Yet, I have heard there are a select few of us walking the earth that have tamed our email inboxes. Here are 12 tips I'm working to put in practice in 2018:
1. Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe. I used to get dozens of emails daily from news websites that screamed “Breaking News." This was an incredible distraction and it took me forever to go back and delete hundreds of those emails that I never read. I have now become a master of Unsubscribe and it has been so relieving to see my number of incoming daily emails reduced dramatically.
2. Set Rules to Filter Incoming Email. There are still a few news websites whose emails I want to receive. However, I don't want their incoming emails to be a distraction for me. So I set a Rule on these news emails to go automatically into a News email folder. I then occasionally read those emails during downtime, but often find myself never reading them. Out of sight, out of mind.
3. Close your Email client when working so you can focus. When you are working on a project, close down all potential distractions. For many of us this means closing down Outlook. I'd also recommend putting your smart phone on airplane mode so you won't get distracted. I realize this tip doesn't necessarily get you closer to inbox zero, but it does take away the distraction of incoming emails.
4. Batch process your emails. Ideally you should only check your email a few scheduled times per day. And during those times crank through your emails. This helps email not be a 24 x 7 distraction.
5. Delete. Many emails should simply be deleted quickly. They don't need a response from you.
6. Reply. If you can type a reply to an email in less than 3 minutes, do it.
7. Defer. If an incoming email requires you to do more than 3 minutes of work, you may want to defer it until you've batch processed your other emails, and then come back to the more time consuming email replies.
8. Prioritize. You're going to want to respond to your boss or colleagues or top client's emails before you reply to less important emails. Don't defer emails that are important.
9. Delegate. For some incoming emails you're not the best person to respond. Forward them along to someone else on your team who can best respond.
10. Create templates of frequent email replies. If you find that you receive a lot of the same types of emails that have basically the same reply, then create and save a template for these situations. You can simply create a series of Word documents that have template replies that you can quickly copy, paste, edit slightly (if needed), and reply. You can save a ton of time with templated email replies.
11. Don't over organize your email with folders. This is a hard tip for me to follow. I'm an accountant so I like files and organization. However, many email inbox productivity articles I've read say that it's not worth the time to create dozens of different folders to organize all of your email. Simple Archive your emails or create a very few folders to store old email. Most email clients, like Outlook, have robust search functionality so you can find old emails quickly. Without the zillion folders.
12. Don't "Reply-All" to emails, unless absolutely necessary. Too often we hit Reply-All to an email, when we don't need to. We typically can just reply to the initial sender. Even if you simply want to say "Thanks," just reply to the sender and don't Reply-All. Worst case scenario is when someone hits Reply-All with something like, "I am not sure if this email was intended for me?" And then a chain reaction of emails of Reply-All emails ensues. Trust me. The less you Reply-All, the less emails you will receive. :)
What tips am I missing for achieving Email Inbox Zero? Please share in the Comments section below!
p.s. I plan to blog about Work-Life Happiness at least weekly in 2018. I'd be honored if you'd subscribe to my blog's emails on my website at: www.mikepritchard.com/subscribe.html