Via Cool Material
When it comes to email, we all want to be more productive. We want to have more control over the messages we receive, find and respond to important emails more quickly, and maybe (just maybe!) one day finally reach that elusive “inbox zero.”
But as much as we want to be better with email, let’s be honest – the struggle is real. Important messages are impossible to find with all the spam the crowds our inbox. We lose track of what emails we’ve read and which need responses. We found ourselves glued to our phone at all hours of the night (and well into the weekend) desperately playing catch-up on our email.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! There IS a way to take back control over our inboxes and make the process of managing our email quick and simple.
How do we know?
Because there are people who have done it.
We talked to some of the world’s biggest productivity giants to find out the secrets they use to manage their inboxes like the bosses they are – and if you’re drowning in email, you’d better listen up.
Here are the top five tips to take back control of your inbox and crush your email, straight from the minds of some of the world’s most productive people:
Be strategic on when you check your emails…
“Turn off notifications, and check your email in 2-3 batches a day. Research shows that people who check their email in batches are more productive, happier, and less stressed. In fact, there is a direct correlation between how frequently you check your email, and how stressed out you feel.” – Jocelyn Glei, Writer and Host of the Hurry Slowly Podcast
“I do not get email on my smartphone. I do have the app on my phone, but I have a super secret personal email that I keep there. And the only people that have that are friends not related to work, my husband, and my assistant… That’s been the biggest change for me, taking my work email off my phone and setting designated times at my laptop to check it.” – Natalie Jill, Fitness Entrepreneur
“Set dedicated time to ‘crush your inbox.’ If you answer emails throughout the entire day, you’ll never actually get ahead.” – Sheena Brady, CEO of Tease Tea
Pretty much all of our experts agreed that if you want to take back control of your email, you need to stop letting it control your time.
You’re going to get emails. You’re going to get emails all day. But if you spend all day responding to those emails, you’re never going to get anything done.
Choose a few times a day to check your email; in the morning after you’ve tackled your most important tasks, after lunch, and an hour before you call it a day are good starting points. Then, only check your email at those times (revolutionary, we know).
But sticking to a schedule for checking your email, you won’t lose hours every day responding to non-urgent emails – hours you could be spending, you know, actually getting things done.
…and how you check your emails
“Only check and read emails when you’re ready to act upon them (reply, add tasks to your to-do list, or delete).” – Noah Kagan, Founder of AppSumo
“Manage your queue. Just because an email came in now doesn’t mean it should shoot to the top of your to-do list. I actually block out certain times to do email catchup, and queue the emails related to a project on a set day.” – Nilofer Merchant, Author & Speaker
“Sort your emails! I think sorting is super important because it dramatically reduces your need to constantly check your inbox. It gives you peace of mind because you don’t need to worry after sorting because you’ve already processed and labeled it once, so you don’t need to get to it again until you need to.” Nir Eyal, Author of Hooked
Turns out that according to the experts, how you check your emails is just as important as when you check your email.
Coming up with a strategy for how to handle your inbox (so, for example, flagging all important emails to be responding to before the end of the day or sorting your emails by contact, project, or level of urgency) is a non-negotiable. Not having a plan for how you’re going to tackle the hundreds (or thousands) of emails that come in every day is planning to fail.
Get rid of unnecessary emails and make sure important messages make it to the top of your inbox
“Unsubscribe from lists. Mark cold sales outreach as Spam. I leave important messages unread until you have time to respond thoughtfully. Aim for inbox zero (even if it’s a pipe dream).” – Zack Onisko, CEO of Dribbble
You’re never going to get to the important messages if your inbox is constantly flooded with spam (think newsletters, sales emails, and all the other spam you get on the daily). If you don’t want to feel constantly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails in your inbox or miss a crucial message because it’s hidden in a pile of junk, it’s important to get rid of the fluff and reserve your inbox for important emails.
(Drowning in junk emails? Find out how SaneBox can help you clear the junk and make sure you never miss an important message again!)
Don’t let email tear you away from what’s important
“Several years ago I removed email notifications from my phone, so I never see the little red number go off on my mail app on my phone. It reduces the ability for an email to interrupt what I’m focused on, but I still probably check my inbox as a habit throughout the day. My guess is I’ll open the app or Chrome tab somewhere between 50-100 times per day.” – Adam Braun, Co-founder of MissionU
“Don’t check your email until you’ve already planned your day and started to make progress on the things that matter most to you. As soon as you check your email, you start making other people’s priorities your own.” – Mel Robbins, Speaker, Author, & CNN Contributor
Email is one of the most important tools in your business – but it can also be one of the most distracting.
According to the productivity giants we spoke to, one of the keys to taking back control of your inbox – and getting more done in the process – is not allowing email to distract you from the more important tasks in your business.
Shut off your email notifications. Use an app like Freedom to block access to your inbox while you’re working on an important project. Make a commitment to yourself that you won’t check email in the morning until after you’ve done the things you’ve wanted to do – whether that’s get in a workout, spend time with your family, or brainstorm new business ideas.
Don’t push off to tomorrow what you can take care of today
“If a note requires you to take action or to reply in a way that would take less than 2 minutes, just do it immediately. Whatever it is. Scan in that form and send it. Look up that piece of information and get back to that person. So many of us will continually open and then delay and circle back to emails that just sit there and mentally torture us. We can feel the person on the other end of the line getting more frustrated and angry, and then we’re even more dissuaded to reply. Don’t let this happen to you. Make it a point of pride and even a bit of a game to crush as many easy and undemanding emails as possible right when you receive them.” – Camille Ricketts, Head of Content at First Round Capital
“Try to respond to email immediately.” – Brad Feld, Partner at Foundry Group
Procrastinating email is tempting (believe us, we get it). But putting off to tomorrow what you could get done today is only going to make the whole unmanageable inbox issue worse. Because of the sheer amount of emails you receive every day, putting off dealing with it can quickly spiral out of control.
If you have an email that needs a quick response, answer it as soon as you read it. For emails that need a more thoughtful response, label it so you know to come back to it later (and set aside time in your schedule to tackle those emails before the end of the day).
Staying on top of your email isn’t always easy. But now that you know the steps to take to take back control of your inbox, you’re just a few tips away from becoming a productivity giant yourself.
Want to learn more actionable strategies to amp up your productivity from some of the world’s most productive minds? Then check out our Productivity Giants series, where we interview top leaders in tech, business and beyond for insights into their best strategies for hacking your business – and your life – for the better.