Taming Your Email Inbox
After a three-year sabbatical on email, I’ve decided it’s time to check back in with reality and take a strong hold on my digital life (in other words, my email inbox).
Since I started developing for the web back in 1996, I’ve been witness to one of the biggest time sucks known to man…
…Email, and the steady and ever increasing mountain of crap that somehow finds its way into my inbox (and more recently into my pocket, thanks to the iPhone).
I’ve had one primary email address for over 10 years on my own hosted domain and I use SpamArrest to tone down the noise and frequency, but it’s never enough.
Several years ago, I decided to go Cold Turkey on email. I set up everything important to me via an RSS reader and told everyone I came in contact with NOT to email me.
You wanna know something, it worked! Despite my fears and reservations, the world continued to exist, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow (even without an email inbox.)
It was refreshing, like a thousand pound weight lifted from my shoulders. And for the handful of people in my life who I actually needed to digitally communicate with in some form of threaded conversation (aka, staff/employees, contractors and clients), I simply set up a Basecamp project where I could check in on the feeds dashboard to keep tabs on any inbound communications.
Sure, from time to time I would occasionally dive into the black whole known as my inbox to click on an email confirmation link, but seriously, for the better part of three years, my life was email free.
Then recently, due to some new projects I’ve been working on with YogaHub, I was required to set up a new email and begin the thing I loathed most, reading and responding to messages. I was able to keep up for a few months, but my old habits of neglect kicked in and that’s when I knew it was time for a better solution.
[enter: Merlin Mann] I caught wind of an email ninja (much in the likeness of Yoda), who claims to have devised a system called “Inbox Zero”. At first I thought it was lunacy! How could one ever truly attain inbox zero? It sounded like a myth, a legend, something whispered between the office halls or etched into the wall of a bathroom stall at Microsoft.
However, after listening to a talk he [Merlin] gave at the Google Plex, I was more than inspired. I felt a new form of excitement for the concepts of taming and tackling my inbox.
So today, I am making a public declaration to take a 90-Day challenge and begin checking my email again.
But first I must delete, purge or archive the 56,513 emails that have built up since February 20th, 2008. So here’s to developing new habits and mastering the art of “Processing” instead of avoiding my inbox.
How do you deal with email? Does it consume your entire work day? Do you have any tips or advice you could share? I’d love to hear your feedback and I’ll check in with a follow-up post to share my lessons and progress.
So it’s been about a week since I’ve started my new email campaign for managing my digital inbox. The trick I’ve found is that I set a 30 minute timer to get through my entire list of emails. Whatever distractions and email articles I choose to read have to be completed in that time span.
While combing through my emails, I double-click to open any important ones that need a reply (which is usually about 1-2 in a list of 100+). And when the timer goes off, I move the entire contents to a single “Archive” folder to bring my Inbox back to Zero. And last but not least, I close my mail programming so I don’t get the urge to check it again until the next day.
Here’s a great article I came across today with some other useful approaches to tackling your inbox. I particularly like how Margery suggests that you don’t even check your email until 1-2 hours after you’ve been productive in getting things done on your last list.