Two tricks for limiting email fatigue

Man in phone

Email fatigue is one of the most rampant illnesses in America today. It’s a disabling sicknesses that keeps folks continually working and in a state of distraction. It renders folks nearly incapable of deep thinking and rest. It keeps them continually processing the 57 unread and 5324 unarchived emails sitting in their inbox.

I know, because I used to have it bad. And, I still suffer from it every now and then.

One common treatment for email fatigue is Inbox 0. Inbox 0 is the practice by which you process your emails daily and keep your inbox clean. You literally end the day with 0 messages in your inbox.  The practice has significantly increased my productivity and folks like Michael Hyatt believe in it so much that he suggests you go so far as to declare email bankruptcy in order to get started.

But, Inbox 0 is hard. Keeping on top of your email and preventing that backlog from piling up is no easy task.

I’ve found two practices that help.

Schedule Off Hours Emails

I work all kinds of crazy hours. During baseball season I’ll leave work at 2:00 to make it to a high school game and then finish up my work later that evening. I use weekend mornings to get caught up projects that require deep thinking. On Sunday evenings I prep for the following week. And, most awkwardly, I can be found crafting an email at any moment of the day — whenever a thought popped into my mind that I need to get out of my head.

Unfortunately, these types of email habits are what render email fatigue to contagious. When folks get a note from the boss on Saturday morning, they’ll think about it until they respond.  And, when I get that response, you better believe I want to get any follow ups immediately off my plate.

In other words, email multiplies like rabbits.  The more you send. The more you get. And, the faster you respond, the more it multiplies. Space and time slows the email procreation machine. It’s a downward spiral.

This is why I started scheduling my emails. Using Boomerang, I am able to write an email and clear my mind without immediately adding a todo to someone else’s plate.  The space and time between send and receive disrupts the multiplication spiral and gives me time to go back and add to or perfect my message without sending yet another one.

”Boomerang” Your Email

Unfortunately, not creating more email traffic significantly reduces the growth of your inbox and the spread of email fatigue, but, it does not actually reduce the number of messages already in your Inbox.

I recently started using another trick — thanks to the same folks at Boomerang. The Boomerang App let’s you hit “snooze” on a particular email. It will clear it from your inbox and bring it back at a date and time you determine.

Now when I get a message on Saturday afternoon that I need to respond to, but, I will boomerang it until my scheduled email processing time on Monday morning. This clears it from my Inbox. It allows me to clear it from my brain and focus on what really matters.

By taking control of my inbox I have been able to recaptured my productivity. It’s amazing to me how much an empty inbox frees my mind.

Combined with SaneBox (which I couldn’t live without), these two tricks have helped optimize my inbox and recapture my productivity.