One of the nicest things you can do for yourself to start the New Year off right is to clean up your inbox.
I have been to dinner with friends who have thousands (and I mean thousands) of emails on their phones. How do they find anything? Just think of your inbox at work. Like yours, mine is seriously overloaded.
An overflowing inbox is one of the biggest sources of stress at work. This is a great time to leave this stress behind and start off the New Year with a fresh, uncluttered inbox.
This is not the time to simply select all of your emails and mark them as read. Thoroughly go through your messages keeping two things in mind – is it urgent and can it be deleted?
Reply right away to any urgent messages and remove yourself from email chains that you don’t need to be a part of. Unsubscribe from newsletters that just aren’t interesting to you (of course, not the Dataman Group newsletter –that’s chock full of great tips)
Remember – don’t leave your next big inbox clean up until the end of the next year. Schedule a time to clean up your inbox once per month, or at least once per quarter. “Inbox zero” is nearly impossible. But, having control of your inbox will certainly make you feel like you’re under control.
Your Goal is Inbox Zero
Inbox Zero was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann. According to Mann, the zero is not a reference to the number of messages in an inbox. It is “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.” Mann’s point is that time and attention are finite. He says that when an inbox is confused with a “to do” list, productivity suffers.
Mann identifies five possible actions to take for each message: delete, delegate, respond, defer and do.
Here are some of Mann’s tips for effective email management:
- Don’t leave the email client open.
- You should process email periodically throughout the day. Perhaps at the top of each hour.
- First delete or archive as many new messages as possible.
- Then, you can forward what can be best answered by someone else.
- Immediately respond to any new messages that can be answered in two minutes or less.
- Move new messages that require more than two minutes to answer — and messages that can be answered later — to a separate “requires response” folder.
- Set aside time each day to respond to email in the “requires response” folder You can also chip away at mail in this folder throughout the day.