We’ve all heard of the mythical “inbox zero,” an elusive state of being where one magically reads, archives and deletes all emails until the inbox is empty, indicating complete zen-like control and mastery of the email monster. I think I’ve accomplished this once, yes, once in my life. It’s not realistic for me, so I’ve pivoted my focus to “inbox organized,” a much more attainable state of inbox harmony. Here are 3 tactics I use to control and manage my inbox.
- Reserve two 45 minute blocks per day on your calendar to check emails. I prefer to have a morning and evening session, usually 11-11:45am and 2-2:45pm. Do not check email outside of these times! Otherwise, you are randomly, reactively checking each little email that pops up, which is a guaranteed killer of productivity. If you stick to this method, it’s definitely a game changer.
- Use routing rules. Whatever email provider you use, there should be an option to set up a rule, or instruction, that will automatically file specific emails into a designated folder for you. For example, if you often receive subscription emails from a trade journal, e.g. photography, life coaching etc., you can set up a rule that that each time “firstname.lastname@example.org” emails you, that email automatically is sent to your “Life Coach Folder” rather than the inbox. It keeps your inbox free of attention-grabbing clutter.
- Use filters. Your email provider probably also has features like filters, where you can organize and sort your emails based on statuses, e.g. unread, flagged, overdue. When you do check emails during the day, using filters will help you prioritize the order in which you answer emails.
To learn more about routing rules and filters for your specific email provider, search their Help Center for how to articles and demonstrations. Using these three tactics together will improve organization, prioritization and productivity, ensuring you own your emails and not the other way around. Do you have organizational best practices? Please comment and share what works well for you- we all need time saving tips!