Friday, November 22, 2013

How to avoid drowning in email: 4 rules

Like any good waterfall, email will just keep pouring at you unless you do something about it.
Email is relentless, and it will dominate your time and attention if you let it. If you don't use email you can skip this one.
Process your inbox to zero, every time. If you can handle any email or task in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Turn your email notification chime off. Schedule your email just like an appointment.
Inbox zero: In case you're too young to remember going to the post office, here's how it worked. They put your mail in your mailbox. You open your mailbox and take the mail home. Nobody opens their mail, reads it, then puts it back in their mailbox.
The reason your friends keep their email in their inboxes is because they don't decide what the email means to them when they read it. 
Treat your inbox like your mailbox at the post office. Clear it out when you check the mail. Decide what incoming emails mean to you. Difficult, but it will get easier with practice. Decide, then move it out of the inbox.
The two minute rule: If you can get something off your plate in less than two minutes do it immediately. It's more trouble to track it and remember to do it later than it is to do it now. If it's actionable, but will take longer put it somewhere else (like an 'action' folder - not your inbox) so you can do it later.
Turn off the email chime: Distractions can destroy your day. It takes longer than you think to get back to what you were doing before you were distracted. Every time you hear the chime, it steals your focus from the task at hand, and it takes a long time to get your focus back.
Keep it on a schedule: Scheduling your email firewalls your time so that you don't find yourself 'doing email' all day, and so that you have time to work on your priorities. Schedule short bursts, no more than 30 minutes of email at a time, during which time you process your email inbox to zero.
Process your email to zero in the time allotted. This protects the rest of your time from being taken over by email, and allows you to spend that time working on your priorities, no matter what those priorities are. Email is not a priority, it's a communications tool.

Inbox zero. Two minute rule. Turn off the chime. Schedule your email. These four rules will keep you from drowning in the rising tide of email.

No comments:

Post a Comment