The Tricks Behind an Empty E-Mail Inbox
The Tricks Behind an Empty E-Mail Inbox
Technology is often a two-edged sword. The best example of this: EMAIL.
Email started as the preferred form of communication for most companies but, due to its popularity, has become a nightmare to manage. In fact, there is a move for some tech companies to slowly move out of email. Thus the rise in popularity of collaboration apps such as Slack, Yammer and Workplace by Facebook.
Of course, as experienced professionals, we know that email is still a necessity and getting rid of it won’t happen anytime soon.
So instead, I will share some of the tricks I provide during career counselling for experienced professionals.These will not only help you maintain an empty inbox but, more importantly, be more productive at work.
Process Your Email
The first thing we need to do is change our mindset about our inbox. We should process NOT just check our inbox. This may seem like simple semantics, but it means a lot.
Checking our inbox is very passive. We look at the emails and decide to reply to some, leave some unread and the rest remains in limbo as we work on the answers or actually work on the task associated with the email. Yup, out inbox sometimes becomes our to do list.
On the other hand, processing our inbox forces us to act on each and every item and place the information in that email where they should be.
Here’s how I process them:
Each of the email will go through this process… normally in this order.
If I can reply to an email quickly. I do a Nike and Just Do It.
Quickly is relative. For me, it’s about 3-5 mins. Others are more strict and defer (see below) email that needs a longer response.
As much as possible, I try to keep my email as short and concise as possible. If I notice I am typing long sentences and paragraphs, I try to put them into bullet points instead.
If I notice a back-and-forth, I will probably ping the person or simply call them.
If an email requires someone else’s input, then I simply delegate it to them. I simply forward the email to the concerned party with a question or call to action.
Honestly, this can be a bit tricky though since some folks do not have this inbox processing in place and some of these delegated email ends up somewhere in the bottom of their inbox. In order to remedy this, I often create action items to remind me to follow-up on the email I delegated. Yes, it can be frustrating but it is what it is. Besides, the email to tasks feature (see below) helps me deal with this.
Note: If you really do not want to follow-up, cc’ing the person’s immediate supervisor has been known to do wonders. 🙂
If an email requires more time, which means an action is necessary on my end, I will defer it. Deferring can be a week after, a day after or even right after the current inbox processing.
I have used different tools / methods for this.
- GMail Labels
- GMail Scripts
I have since moved to a really great productivity app called Nozbe. I will not discuss the details of the app but I use it to keep all my todos. The email to tasks feature is really great in helping me create action items from my inbox. I simply forward an email to a specific address, add the necessary hashtags (you will learn more about this when you start using Nozbe), click on Send + Archive and I’m all set.
No. This does not mean dumping them in the trash. This is for information that might be useful for future reference.
For these messages, I simply dump them into my ever-handy Evernote.
Disclaimer: I loved Evernote so much that I went ton to become an Evernote Certified Consultant.
The last part of the process is simply deleting the email.
I don’t know about you but I know a lot of people who find this the hardest thing to do. There is a certain sense of FOMO (Fear of missing out) about deleting emails.
An important element in this process is that you should always try to PROCESS to ZERO.
Once you let one email creep in… another will follow… and another. Soon, you will just be too tired to process and succumb to the weight of another full inbox.
Additional tips to help you do this:
# Turn off your new email notifications and, instead, schedule when you will process them.
# For old emails, start by processing 25-30 old messages that are in your Inbox.
# This does not apply for your new messages. They all need to be processed.
# Most productivity experts will tell you not to process first thing in the morning. However, I would say it depends on your line of work. I worked with an overseas counterpart in my previous work, so I had to process my email first thing in the morning to make sure I am aware of important issues.
Tell Us About It
We hope that these tips will be useful for you. Please go ahead and try them on your own inbox and let us know how your JOURNEY to ZERO works out.
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