I’ll be blunt. Email doesn’t count as real work.
If you are spending the workday in your inbox, you are wasting your day.
Email is an insidious little time stealer.
Email is an insidious little attention stealer.
Email is an insidious little soul sucker.
It’s time to stop letting email control your day.
I admit. It used to control far too much of my workday. And my nights, thanks to Steve Jobs and his little invention, the iPhone.
But, I’ve recognized the damage that email can have on my workday and my mental health. I’ve consciously worked on putting its back in its place. It’s a helpful tool. It shouldn’t be the day’s agenda or the thing that keeps me away from quality work output.
I’ll break down all of the strategies that I’ve applied in my own workday that have gotten me in control of my inbox once and for all.
Set time-based boundaries for yourself, starting today.
You don’t need to communicate these boundaries to anyone. In fact, I encourage you to keep it to yourself.
I set the following boundaries. I won’t respond to email in the morning until I get to the office. I try my best to not even glance at it until I’m at my desk. My best thinking time is in the morning. If I waste my best mental energy on email, it sets me up for a waste of a workday.
I plan my attack for the day. Only then will I open my inbox.
I also stop responding to email once I get home from the gym, which is around 8 pm. I set the phone on the charger and try my best to leave it alone for the night. I only break this rule when there is an urgent issue that I’m managing.
If you do the math, I’m allowing 12 hours of the day to be email free. It’s glorious and life-changing.
If you take only one piece of advice from my list, make it this one.
Clean up your email backlog in one fell swoop.
Take that backlog and move it out of your inbox today.
Leave today’s email there.
Shove the rest in a folder.
Seriously, it will make you feel so much better. Just do it.
If it’s really important, they’ll email you again.
Aggressively act on every email moving forward.
For every email that comes in, make a choice to:
- Delete it immediately,
- File it away, or
- Respond now
Stop allowing read email pile up in your inbox. It’s not helping you stay on top of your day. It’s doing the opposite. It’s burying you mentally & emotionally. How can you be your best when to-dos are piling up?
What about those emails that you want to keep in your inbox to remind you to follow up on something or take an action later?
I adapted tricks that I learned at a recent seminar run by Danny Bader and it was life-changing. I created folders in my inbox called “To Do” and “Waiting For”. If I’m waiting for an answer or action, it goes in “Waiting For”. Anything I need to act on goes in “To Do”.
Everything else gets deleted or filed. As soon as I read it.
Stop over-architecting your archive.
I used to have a ton of sub-folders in my email archive. Wow, the time I used to spend archiving emails into the right sub-folder!
I let the sub-folders go and simply use one folder titled with the year.
With everything in one folder, you can search easily in many ways in one place. I didn’t know that my elaborate sub-folder system actually made searching more difficult until I let it go.
Turn off your email notifications.
You don’t need the red dot tempting you all the time. You don’t need a ping every time an email comes in. Stop acting like Pavlov’s dog. You don’t need to act every time something comes through.
Seriously. I let go of all email notifications years ago, and I’ve gotten along just fine.
It’s amazing how much crap comes in that you don’t even care about. You know all the stuff you delete without reading? Invest a little time one day to click the “unsubscribe” at the bottom of the email.
Even if you delete the email automatically, it’s just nonsense coming in. Stop wasting time and mental energy. Two clicks and it’ll be gone forever.
Get your phone out of your bedroom.
I won’t be one of those purists that tell you to take the TV out of your bedroom. Eff that! I love my bedroom TV and will never let go of it. Do you know how many episodes of House Hunters I’ve fallen asleep to over the years? Too many to count!
Watch a show for 30 minutes. Read a book for 30 minutes. Meditate. Listen to music.
Just stop scrolling your way to sleep! It’s sucking away much more of your brainpower and emotional wellbeing than you think.
With a little conscious thought, you can get back in control of your inbox once and for all.