Email Anxiety

We all know that email is a necessary evil – a delicate balance between necessity and nuisance. The trick is to establish practices that ensure important emails arrive in your inbox and the rest go confidently into your spam folder.

One decision that has dramatically reduced my inbox load is Slack – a valuable tool for team collaboration. Instead of composing an email every time I need to make a change or new assignment, Slack keeps all communications neatly organized and funneled into appropriate channels. This alone has resulted in a 30% decrease in number of emails in my inbox – every day.

Some additional practices that may help you thin the herd:

  • Be a diligent un-subscriber. Religiously, on the fly, rid yourself of unwanted email by unsubscribing. You can even deploy a free service called Unroll.me for help with unsubscribing. This a common practice will decrease email substantially.
  • Don’t respond to emails that don’t require a response – this will lessen the encouragement of additional emails in the future.
  • Be quick to process –  decide to respond, forward, folder, archive or delete.  If you wait you just add to the clutter you’re trying to eliminate. Using Smart Mailboxes in your email client can help keep your email organized – another time saver.
  • Another interesting approach, created by Tony Hsieh from Zappos, is called “yesterbox” – working off yesterday’s emails as today’s to-do list. This keeps email focused on tasks and once you’re finish dealing with yesterday’s emails, you’re done with email for the day.
  • Schedule time daily for dealing with new emails – maybe an hour in the morning and again late in your work day. That will keep the volume down and supports the “in-control” feeling we all want.

Bottomline: don’t be a slave to your email. Answering an email every time you hear that ding can kill productivity. For emails that do require a response, try to do so within two hours – remember, responding in a timely manner does not mean responding immediately.

Eureka moment – zero inbox does not exist and attempting to achieve it is more of a time waster than saver. It only lasts for a short while, and when your inbox fills again you end up with that same email anxiety. It’s more important to be productive in the way you process and manage your email. Zero inbox is like the uncluttered desk – is work getting done, or is it just a facade?

I’m interested in tips you have to help with the email management.

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