Email is the bane of my existence. I can’t live with it and I can’t live without it.
I receive hundreds of emails every day, and while I can’t imagine being productive without it, I also know that it’s a huge productivity suck.
That’s why I control my email consumption very carefully. Here are 3 ways I control email so that it doesn’t control me.
One address per context
I have 3 separate email accounts – one for work, one for the public, and one for my personal life (family and close friends).
I check each one at different intervals. For example, my public address shouldn’t require an immediate response, so I only check it a couple of times per day. My work and personal emails, however, are “always on.”
Automate prioritization and consumption
I use a tool called Sanebox to filter my email as it arrives. If Sanebox recognizes a recipient as important, it leaves it in my inbox. If not, it will archive it and flag it for follow-up.
About half of my email is automatically flagged for later. I check those emails twice a day. Others are flagged as news or bulk emails. Those I read at my leisure.
This automatic filtering keeps my inbox clean and my mind free to process only the most important emails.
I try to keep my inbox clean, as in no email. This means everything is processed and responded to as quickly as possible. Any emails sitting there nag at me and take mental cycles.
To keep it clean, I use the following rules:
- If it will take less than 2 minutes to read and respond, I do it right away. Quick emails that require brief replies are the best!
- If the email needs to be assigned to someone else, I send it along right away. Better to get it off my plate and clear my mind.
- If I can’t complete it and can’t assign it, I try to schedule it for follow-up (using SaneBox).
- If I can’t digest it quickly and decide what to do, I leave it in my inbox. Some people just aren’t great at crafting emails that are easy to digest.
- Every evening I try to get my inbox back down to zero.
Being disciplined helps me ensure that I’m controlling email and it’s not controlling me.
It’s easy to be a slave to digital communications. Take charge and watch how much more productive your days will seem.