1. The Save Out
Copy and paste the entire email to a word document and file it there for safekeeping. Word docs are designed to be saved and stored but emails are not. There is an emotional attachment to every email in your inbox so get it out of sight so that it’s out of mind.
2. The Offline Attack
Nothing is more emotionally defeating than spending 2 hours in your inbox and having a net gain of only 2 emails completed because responses were coming in as fast as you were sending them out… Instead, work “offline” every single time you answer emails.
3. The Extended Out of Office
When you go out of town for vacation or a work conference, turn your “out of office responder” for one day longer than you’re actually gone. The magic—which I discovered by accident—is in adding one extra day to it so that you legitimately have a catch-up day to get your feet back under you when you return.
4. Multiple Strings
Unfortunately a large number of people lack what should be required prudence in using the “reply all” button. Therefore it’s incredible the number of emails in your inbox that will be “strings.” In other words, you’ll have 10 emails that are all the same conversation. …Quickly glance at your email list for emails with the same subject line and delete the oldest ones, leaving the newer ones for you to read later. This is a quick way to process several emails all at once.
5. Email Date Night
Create the same protected time every so often with your inbox. It’s astounding how much you can get accomplished in four uninterrupted hours of office time.
6. Scan and Flip
When you sit down to finally catch up on email, work with a 2-minute drill. Per #2 above you should be offline and start to build momentum by first tackling any emails that can be processed and completed in less than two minutes. If it will take longer than two minutes to deal with then skip it for now and just continue scanning—get through the easy ones first. Then once you get to the bottom of your inbox (you will likely have made a large dent) “flip” your emails so that the oldest are at the top and the newest are at the bottom. By eliminating the base of emails at your inbox you’ll find that it’s less likely to pile up on top of itself.
7. Learn the “Let Go”
Truly one of the most substantial growth areas for me in managing my office work was learning to let go of my own deep-rooted desire to share my opinion on everything. And even fewer items yet will be handled significantly different in our organization solely because of my one additional insight. People are generally capable of making good decisions and often things end up being better than they would’ve been had I stuck my nose in it. This mental shift in your attitude will show up pragmatically in your inbox by you learning to enjoy the delete button—without needing to share a response.
[Image: Flickr user Chris Gunton]