Master Your Email Inbox

How to Master Your Inbox & Stop Being Enslaved By Your Messages

(Photos by Rachel Wakefield)

This post is Day 14 in the 31 Days to a Super-Purposeful Schedule series.

There's an urgent feeling that comes with knowing you have new mail. It's almost painful to hear that familiar ping or see that notification of a new message without checking it right away. 

Checking emails too often seems like a minor problem, but think about how many minutes you spend opening emails, reading them, replying back and forth, clicking links that take you to other time-consuming places, finding information or files to add to your reply, checking your calendar to reply, scrolling through the mess to find old messages, etc.

Depending on your inbox, and how many lists you're subscribed to (remember my 690 from day 2?!), you could be spending hours each day just trying to keep up with your inbox.  

This article from 2014 showed that people checked their smartphones over 200 times per day! Probably a good amount of those tasks are emails, social media and texts. Keep in mind, that's just the phone - not even counting the number of times people are checking in on their computers, laptops, ipads, etc.   

Most of us can't just decide to ignore our emails, but we don't need to be enslaved to them either.

A solution to getting rid of extra stress and wasted hours is to create a plan to master your inbox. It might take a few days to get the hang of it, but once you've put your structure in place, you'll be in awe of how much more time you have for other things.

Create a Plan to Master Your inbox

Master Your Inbox Plan

1 | Create Time Boundaries

Make some reasonable time constraints. Try cutting your email time down to twenty minutes a day. Ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the afternoon. Or right before lunch and right before ending the workday to keep it short. (Turn off your email notifications and pings!) 

Another good practice is to do some focused work before checking in so that your productivity doesn't get thrown way off because of someone else's idea of an "urgent."    

2 | Click It Once Rule

Before opening your inbox, decide to only come in contact with an email once. If you read my No More Paper Clutter post, this is the same method I use for paper mail as well. Don't open it and then leave it for later. Take action using one of these methods... 

Need to do some unsubscribing? More is not always better. 

3 | If It Takes 2 Minutes Or Less, Deal With It Now.

I learned this tip from productivity expert, Michael Hyatt. If you can write a quick response without too much detail, do it immediately. Answer, move on. Answer, move on.

Using email templates for the most common responses is an easy way to do this. Save a quality general response for these common questions and then quickly personlize and hit "send."   

Master your email inbox

4 | Apply a "Process" Label

Plans with family and friends, project details and the occasional promotion might be something you need to think about and process throughout the day before taking action.

In this case, use a "process" label or folder to keep your inbox clean and organized. Then come back to those at the end of the day when you're ready to take action. (Note: In Gmail, you can tag emails with a label by hand or use filters to automatically apply labels based on your settings. So handy!)  

5 | Archive It Rule

You really can get rid of all that extra mail without deleting it. If there's no direct action you need to take with an email, or you're finished replying, send it to the archives. You can always do a quick search by topic or sender to find it if you need it later. This is much easier than scrolling for days. 

Another option is to use to "roll up" all of those emails you only want to read in your free time. Save those casual newsletters for the weekend. 

Taking these small purposeful actions every day can keep your inbox clear and your schedule a bit more freed up!

Need to divide and conquer? Why I Use 4 Separate Email Addresses

Today's Action Step:

Put together your master inbox plan or at least take the first step by turning off your notifications. Instead set a reminder for you to check your emails each day and then resist the urge to check in. Life is not an emergency. xo 

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