This post is part of my free 6-day email series on creating a deep work habit in your life. Not yet subscribed? Head to the link above to make deep work an everyday part of your personal and professional life.
Here are 6 of my favorite action steps that will both help reduce the number of emails you get, and save time when you do need to email:
- Ruthlessly unsubscribe: Sounds obvious, but do it! Any time you find yourself deleting an email instead of reading it, open it, scroll to the bottom, and click Unsubscribe. (Unless it’s from Pique Coaching, of course.) One less hassle to deal with in the future!
- Get it out of your inbox: Plagued by an overflowing inbox? Set aside an evening, grab a glass of kombucha, and get to work clearing out your inbox. Then, consider adhering to this rule: Emails only stay in your inbox if they require action on your part. Delete any emails that you no longer need. If you’d like to keep an email on file, most email clients allow for easy organization. If you’re using Gmail, label the email (with a clear label that you’ll easily remember), then hit the archive button to get it out of your inbox.
- Use the “Do, dump, delegate, delay” principle: Now that your inbox is only emails that require action, use the “Do, dump, delegate, delay” principle to decide how to best handle each email. If it requires a task that you’ll do later, add it to your to-do list and then — you guessed it — archive the email. If it’s something you want to read later, save it using a label or a folder called Read Later. If need be, put a few minutes on your calendar to remind yourself to review the folder regularly. Get in the habit of moving yourself out of overwhelm and into action quickly by always adhering to one of the 4 options: Do, dump, delegate, delay. (This will serve you well in life in general; not just with your inbox!)
- Set up templates: How often do you find yourself wasting time by writing the same email over and over? Save time by drafting templates, like responses to FAQs or step-by-step instructions. Then, save them in an easily accessible spot. Gmail makes this easy with Canned Responses. Just go to the Settings wheel on the top right → Settings → Advanced and then enable Canned Responses. Hit Save, and your inbox will refresh. Next time you compose an email, hit the three vertical dots icon (next to the trash can icon) in the new message to see (or save) a Canned Response.
- Use scheduling tools: Scheduling tools eliminate some of the back-and-forth calendar shuffle that often takes place in inboxes. I use Calendly and have heard great things about Acuity, too. (Pro tip: If you use Calendly, be sure to grab the Chrome Extension; it really takes the experience up a notch in terms of efficiency and simplicity.) Use Doodle if you’re scheduling with a group. Note: Feel a little silly about using a calendar scheduler? I often include a little caveat when emailing out my link: “Hey, I know it seems a little pretentious to make you book time on my calendar, but I promise it will save us both time!”
- Set time aside exclusively for email: If you find that popping into your inbox at random prevents you from following the strategies above, consider setting aside time specifically for email. Experiment with the amount of time you need to keep your inbox under control. Depending on the traffic level of your inbox, you might want to do half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon, for example.
Try it: Full inbox? Set aside five minutes per day to do an initial clearing out of your inbox. Already rocking a relatively clear inbox? You’re in perfect position to implement the strategies above every time you pop into your inbox.