As someone who travels and works an awful lot out of my email inbox, I make the conscious choice to keep it clean.
Yep. Most every night, I go to bed with my inbox empty. No emails.
This doesn’t work for everybody (my partner Roy has about 14,000 in there the last time I checked), but it relaxes me and allows me to more easily focus on whatever work I’m doing.
I feel a massive psychological weight lifted every time I clear that sucker.
My friend Erica – a talented and extremely busy professional and mother and professional mother – has been doing her best to get hers down to nothing.
I thought it might be helpful to shoot a quick, unedited video showing – in real time – how little effort it takes to keep it clear once you’ve got it clear.
A few tips:
- Use David Allen’s advice: If it takes less than two minutes to deal with it, deal with it immediately. The old me would have seen that first email in the video below and just left it to ‘deal with later.’ This is poison. Don’t do it. There’s never time later.
- Delete more stuff. Or set up a mail rule to have non-essential stuff like newsletters auto-sort to a folder for your someday-maybe casual reading.
- If someone sends you a link or article, use a service like Instapaper. Click on the link in the email, and immediately after it opens in your browser, use Instapaper’s ‘Read Later’ bookmarklet thingie and file it away. Then immediately close your browser and get back to triaging your inbox.
- Delete more stuff.
- Write shorter replies.
- Get stuff onto your calendar or your to-do list. Then file or trash that email. Use a to-do list that allows you to post future items. If you’re using a notebook or single sheet of paper, be sure to note the future date. I use Toodledo synced with ToDo on my phone and iPad.
- Speaking of mobile devices – and this is kinda technical – if you check email somewhere other than your computer, it really helps if your email accounts are IMAP accounts that sync your email between devices, so when you delete it from one, you delete it and it doesn’t re-download onto your computer later (like it does with POP3 accounts). If you’re confused by this, ask a younger person – they can explain it to you. But not too young … you know you’ve gone too young when they look up from their texting and are all, like, ‘umm … what’s email?’ Tell that little punk to get off your lawn and go find someone a little older.
If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.
Hope this helps. It really is like keeping your house clean – do the heavy lifting once, and the maintenance to keep it clean really only takes minutes a day.
Any questions? Do you have any tips to help?
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