30 Sep How To Overcome Email Fatigue & Master Your Inbox
Just as the saying goes, “you are what you eat”, so too, “you are a reflection of your inbox”.
OK, maybe not. At least you know that your habits can overtake your best intentions.
This is true with everyday tasks like reading email and managing your inbox. So, when my inbox hit 88,888 messages, I realized I had a problem. I was feeling good that day. I had slowly deleted down from 128,000. Yet, it was the series of the total of eights — the likeness of five infinity signs in a row that flashed at me in repetitive mockery. Then it hit me. At the rate I was going, my backlogged email may indeed go on forever. Something had to change.
My inbox was so full that my computer wouldn’t disclose how many messages really existed. I’d delete and inevitably more would creep in. I felt like I needed to enlist a full-time email slayer just to reach anywhere near a few thousand messages. I had a fallen into the bad habit of letting my inbox fill and never fully addressing it.
In his article, Bad Habits You Must Eliminate From Your Daily Routine, Dr. Travis Bradberry says, “Breaking bad habits requires self-control—and lots of it. Research indicates that it’s worth the effort, as self-control has huge implications for success.” I couldn’t agree more.
Sure, I’d put processes in place before, but something stopped me from sticking to them. I’d begin my system, and the life of putting out fires, vetting requests, and chasing children would surely get in the way. I was tired of trying to manage something that I felt like didn’t deserve such a chunk of my valuable time.
Of course, anything that you take into your life that has a half-life, does deserve the attention required to manage it. If you manage it well, it will serve you rather than leave you feeling buried. If it doesn’t deserve to be there, it should go.
The good news is that after a ridiculous amount of trial and error, I found a system that works. It’s a simple process with steps adapted from top productivity gurus. The key message being that you may need to test a few things until you find what works for you so that you actually stick with it. You’ll need to set regular time aside each day once you implement your system to process your inbox. Doing this, you’ll have a far easier time making it a habit.
After years of implementing systems that didn’t work and then trying my own, here are my five steps. I’ve borrowed and altered these from those who teach tried and tested systems. Use what works for you.
Look the Monster in the Eye
Step 1: Admit that you have a problem. Just kidding. Isn’t this always step 1? We know it’s a problem. Do this instead. Take a few minutes to look at your email and access what resides there. Is your inbox a gynormous black hole because you never delete messages? Do you feel like you need a record of everything? Do you subscribe to too many lists? Did you get in the habit of managing your inbox at some point? Not at all? All of the above?
Think Like a Vampire Slayer
Step 2: Deposit all the messages you intend to keep in your Archive folder. Next, put some intent on creating self-control as a habit toward keeping your system.
Think about what time of day is the best time for you to get into that inbox and get to working on your system. Pick a time, ideally, the same time each day. Mark your calendar, and don’t let any distractions get in the way of the time you spend managing your inbox. This is a huge part of making a system, any system, work. If you have someone else manage your inbox for you, make sure that person understands your desired system and uses what works for you.
Focus Like A Ninja Warrior
Step 3: Try and focus on three tasks at hand. You can use shortcuts on your keyboard such as ‘select all’ and then hit the delete key one time rather than holding down the delete key for several minutes.
It’s easy to get pulled in to reading each message get distracted. Michael Hyatt has a fantastic system for getting through the process. According to Michael’s “This Is Your Life Podcast,’ Season 8, Episode 5, we go through four of his excellent methods to help you manage your email.
The industry calls having no messages in your inbox, “Inbox Zero”. I highly recommend trying it. If that seems impossible, try for 15-20 or what you decide to be your magic number. At the end of the day, knowing that as soon as you zero-out or get to that ideal number, someone will undoubtedly send you more email. When this happens, you may shake your fists in the air and laugh an uncontrollable laugh. The key is to keep going and not get stuck in the actual process.
Enlist An Army to Work For You
Step 4: Hyatt also suggests getting help from SaneBox and Unroll.Me. Unroll.Me. gets access to your inbox and has a capability to produce a list of every list you’ve subscribed to that has an unsubscribe link. Then you can decide to consolidate that list into a once a day or once a week email. You can put it into the Unroll.Me email so you don’t have to address each one individually. If you manage a team, check out Slack. Go to michaelhyatt.com for his full transcript.
Rinse and Repeat
Step 5: Keep up to date on other productivity helpers like Slack, which is an alternative to email. If you ever use your email for notetaking like sending yourself a message so that you’re alerted to an action item, try something else for notes. I like using Evernote for keeping your notes in one spot instead of using your email for note taking.
Beware of Notifications
According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, (I can vouch from plenty of experience), notifications can be a distraction causing your productivity to go down. Instead, combine all of your emails and texts and reminders from your phone, computer, and tablet and review them at a planned time. This lets your attention focus on one project at a time and saves you additional minutes going back and forth between tasks.
Bring it full circle
To recap, first, look at your box from a bird’s eye view, and set your intent. Second, move through the process. Third, use shortcuts. Fourth, set and utilize email rules and other software to help you manage the volume. Five, set you calendar to rinse and repeat next time.
By dealing with your cluttered inbox, you are one step closer to mastering your productivity, time and workload.
For other tips and tricks on productivity, ease, and generally designing a life of happiness, check out my blog and sign up for my newsletter to stay updated on future trainings. (yes, I just told you to declutter your inbox).
What other ways are effective for you in processing your email? Leave me a note in the comments section.
Anne Mandler is an educator, writer, and speaker showing individuals the path to their best career by following their joy. She mentors business owners and organizations on brand strategy, effective communication, and revenue growth while teaching how to lead and influence by following their most important drivers.
Anne runs Anne Mandler, Inc. and the social page, the Conscious Living Collective. She is Editor-In-Chief of ANNE MAGAZINE.