Do you come back to an overflowing inbox after holidays and weekends? How does that affect your productivity?
Worse still, do you spend holiday or weekend time handling emails to avoid the ‘inbox shock’ on your return?
If you let emails determine what you will do next, you are giving other people the power to determine your priorities.
If there are days when what’s in your inbox sets your agenda, and you reach the end of the day feeling like you haven’t achieved anything, this tip is for you:
[Tweet “When you rule your inbox, you rule your day!”]
Remember these three elements that you have the power to control:
The jobs where something terribly serious will happen if you don’t read and respond to an email immediately are very few.
It is OK to keep your email program closed except for the times you have decided, in advance, to view and process emails. Don’t worry if you have an email to send. Just open your email program temporarily via your Contacts tab or your CRM and avoid the temptation to check your inbox.
Try it for a while, and you’ll realise that in most cases, the sender will have forgotten their email until they receive your reply anyway. If it is urgent, they will call you.
And if you still have notifications on your screen or smartphone every time you receive and email, turn off that function immediately.
All email systems have within them the potential to reduce your inbox overwhelm — if you know how to use all their features.
Set up folders for the main categories of emails your receive, and then as emails come in, set up rules for how you want similar emails handled when they hit your inbox in the future. You will cut down on what makes it to your inbox — and your attention — in the first place.
One example would be to set up a rule for all emails from family and friends to go into a ‘Personal’ folder that you might check once a day or so.
Another example is to divert all regular newsletters you receive into a ‘Reading’ folder for you to read when you have time to catch up. The aim is to reduce distraction when you do check your inbox — at the scheduled time, of course!
While you’re sorting out your email folders and rules, you can also send emails from specific senders straight to spam, trash or delete, and you never need to see them at all.
To find out more about how to set up these features in your email program, simply use your favourite search engine.
Constantly checking email and feeling the need to respond immediately is a habit (dare I say, addiction?) that you can cure with a mixture of willpower and support.
I found the strength I needed to break my habit with two Gmail plug-ins, ActiveInbox and UnrollMe, and you may find other apps for similar tasks in other systems. In my case, I use ActiveInbox mainly to classify emails, connect them to projects, add notes and decide when and how I’ll process them.
UnrollMe has made a huge difference to my working life. Simply installing it made it easy for me to unsubscribe from 728 email lists that I’d subscribed to over the years but were no longer relevant. All those regular emails I do want were then combined in a once-daily ‘Rollup’ that I scan to click and read anything of interest, as well as unsubscribe from any new subscriptions if they’re unwanted.
[Update July 2017: The latest tool in my ‘inbox toolbox’ is Drag. Quick to install and easy to learn, it’s perfect for those emails you want to keep for now because they are really tasks. A big bonus is that with Drag you organise them in the Kanban 3-column format of ‘To Do’ ‘Doing’ ‘Done’. And when you don’t need the reminder anymore, simply click a green ‘Archive’ button to see it disappear from your inbox. Using this system is another way to ensure your inbox only contains those emails that absolutely have to be there. Love it!]
All the ideas above will take a little time to implement and get used to, but the energy and stress you will save once you’ve put them in place will far outweigh the initial effort.
You have the power to change your relationship with your inbox. When will you start?
This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.
"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things."
Sam Refshauge - CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
Jessica Hill - Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
Chris Bulmer - National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
Benoit Ribe - HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead employee and team development sessions."
Shaun Stanfield - Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet