Email is the bane of my existence. It is the constant interrupter. It knocks me off schedule. It distracts. Yet, it is important. It is one of the major forms of communication I use.
Let me make a confession. I had 954 emails in my inbox yesterday. It was like my inbox was 954-lbs – just weighing me down.
I received an email from John Lee Dumas this week that has shifted my paradigm regarding email. I am writing this post to myself as I want to solidify this change in thinking. I also want to execute and solve my email problem once and for all.
Have you ever heard of OPA before? I hadn’t until I read JLD’s email. OPA stands for Other People’s Agenda. That is what the email inbox is. A collection of emails. All of them are seeking to get you on their agenda. That almost makes me mad. So here is my plan to effectively and efficiently deal with my inbox. To be clear, I am defining daily email success as reaching inbox zero every day.
At this moment, I have achieved inbox-zero. I feel fantastic. I have captured the unicorn. This is how I’m going to keep it.
In fact, anyone can achieve email success (inbox zero) by following these 4 steps.
The 4 Steps to Achieve Inbox Zero…and stay there!
1) Declare Bankruptcy
Last night I was staring at an inbox with 950+ emails. If I spent one minute sifting through each email, it would have taken 15+ hours. No thank you. I started from the oldest emails and highlighted all on a page – 50 at a time. I then quickly scanned the emails and unchecked any that I wanted to take a look at. After about an hour, I was down to less than 70 emails.
2) Utilize Technology
There are some great apps I would recommend that can help you stay at inbox zero. These apps also helped me deal with the last 70 emails I had left after my bankruptcy.
3) Only look at an email once
This is where I really struggle. I will look at an email, not know what to do with it, and leave it there. I’ve wasted 30 seconds and not resolved anything. Thus, I will have to look at it again. Maybe then I will be ready to make a decision.
You have 4 choices – just four.
- Deal with it – I generally do this if it takes 2 minutes or less to do so. If you’ve read Getting Things Done, you know where I got that idea. If you haven’t read this book, do so immediately!
- Delegate it – This could take a couple forms. Forward the email immediately to the person on your team who will deal with it. Or, you have someone on your team responsible for handling your inbox, and only the important stuff makes it to you. That sounds awesome and is on my bucket-list.
- Delete it – Nuff said.
- Defer/Boomerang it – Kick the can down the road until you are in a better place to consider which of the first three choices apply. Just don’t let the email sit in your inbox in the meantime.
4) Turn off notifications
There is nothing more distracting than that pop up notification informing you that you have a new email. Turn it off. I’m serious. Stop reading this post and figure out how to turn the emails notifications off.
This will be less of an issue if you are using the pause app. For you non-gmail folks (I’m so sorry), you will have to do this manually.
So now the question is how long can I maintain inbox zero? I’m going to make this one last.