Emails are making life difficult for many people. If you don’t have a system in place for managing your email inbox, you will soon find yourself responding to other people’s emergencies all the time instead of focusing on your important tasks. To prevent email taking over your life, here are a few principles:
Mornings are not for checking emails
You have no idea what you will find in your inbox. If you start your day, by checking email, you are likely to find the five minutes you had hoped to spend magically became one hour. It’s hard to resist the temptation to reply an email even though some part of us probably knows the reply can wait. If it’s an emergency, you will probably get a phone call instead of an email. Use your morning hours to work on tasks that require deep focus.
Don’t leave your mail client or browser window open
Never leave your email client open. The new mail alert is distracting and you will be tempted to take a peek. Instead, only open your inbox when you have decided to tackle your messages and close it immediately you are done.
Only check email at prearranged times
What if I told you, most people will be perfectly fine if they check their email for one hour only once a day? I know it’s hard to believe but unless you are getting paid to check email, it’s not the task that you need to focus on. Make a commitment to only check and respond to emails at times you have set for yourself. If once a day seems too scary for you, try two to three times a day. You can check your email by 10am after you have done some tasks, then perhaps by 2pm when you get back from your lunch and prayer break and finally about 30 minutes before you leave work for the day. I know it sounds crazy but do it for a few days and decide if you think it’s not working.
Archive old emails
Create folders (or labels) for all emails you receive and once you are done with them, archive them so they don’t clutter your inbox and give you anxiety. Use labels that are easy for you to remember and make some sense to you so you can search for an old email later if you need it. Most emails won’t ever get referenced again. Taking them out of your inbox gives you peace. Seeing an inbox overflowing with pages of messages will give you anxiety. There is actually a principle behind this called inbox zero. I promise to go into more details about it in Q2. For now, it’s enough to know an empty inbox will give you peace.
- Never check emails first thing in the morning.
- Never leave your mail application open all the time.
- Schedule when to check emails.
- Label all emails you have read into folders and archive them. Delete all junk mail immediately.