Friday, May 10, 2013

Slaying the Email Monster - One Delete at a Time!

If you have total control over your email and it doesn't stress you out then you can just stop reading right now! This is NOT the blog post for you. But, for the rest of my overwhelmed-by-email readers, this may sound very familiar.

I am in constant struggle with my personal email. More so as the fact that at times I may get so many that need response or are important that my brain gets filled to the rim and everything kind of just spills over. Sound about right??

There is way too much of it. I feel overwhelmed by it most of the time, and just barely in control of it on the best of days. I often feel that I spend too much of my day reading and answering email and while I know it's something I have to do--for work and for life--it's not something that makes me feel good or productive enough.

Over the past couple of years I've tried to develop habits with my personal email that help me slay the Email Monster, and I'll share a few. (By the way, these tips may not be appropriate for email at work.)

  • Don’t check email first thing in the morning. This is my favorite one. When I manage to stick to it, I am more productive, my day goes better, and I am much more focused.
  • Check email at set times throughout the day. My worst email days are those when I leave my inbox open throughout the day. Then I can’t avoid the temptation of checking new (unimportant) mail when I see I have some and it just completely kills my productivity. (This is particularly bad to do at work!)
  • Have a process for going through your inbox. The first thing I do is clear out spam or the too-numerous emails from the various places where I’ve shopped online. My second step is to skim through content emails - those that I would just read, like newsletters from sites I’m interested in - to see if I want to read any of them. I delete all others and leave the few to read later. (I leave them in my inbox while I’ve also seen advice to put them in a separate folder). Third, I go through and reply to emails that require a quick response. I leave emails that require more work for later and try to have one dedicated time a day when I respond to them.
  • Keep control of your inbox. Since I leave things in my inbox to do later, and since I don't always do them later, my inbox can get out of hand quickly. So about once a month, I go through it and ruthlessly delete.
  • Take an email hiatus. I’ve never actually done this one but a friend of mine has taken a hiatus like this before but went a step further. His auto-reply to anyone who sent him email during it was to let them know that he would be deleting all email for a week of his hiatus. If it was important, he asked people to resend it. He said it worked surprisingly well.
Sometimes one needs to have just a little bit of control over their lives - even if it's something as small as uncluttered email!

Do you struggle with email? What are some effective ways that you have learned to conquer the Email Monster?

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