By Thomas Shambler
Today people are so swamped by email, overflowing inboxes and heaps of unread emails that the notion of reach 'inbox zeo' is an appealing idea
Email has changed. Receiving an email notification used to be a joyful experience, with 'you've got mail!' jingles heralded as a celebration of modern technology. Back then, receiving a single online message was exciting, but that's no longer the case.
Today people are swamped by email, with overflowing inboxes and heaps on unread emails. It has made the notion of reaching 'inbox zero' – having no emails sat in your inbox – an appealing idea. And while seeing triple-digit unread emails now is far from uncommon (especially after some time away), there are a few common strategies to help you attack an out-of-control inbox.
Chances are you don't even remember signing up for that newsletter, and you aren't the only one. Despite never reading (or even opening) mass emails, it's surprising the number of people who also don't have time to click 'unsubscribe'. If you don't want to manually go through your emails, consider signing up to Unroll.me, a free online service that automates the process. It can unsubscribe you from all your useless email subscriptions in one click.
FILTERS ARE YOUR FRIEND
Getting to inbox zero is challenging, but keeping it clean may prove even harder. By using your email provider's filters, you can limit the amount of email that makes it to your inbox. In life, as in business, there are people who require more time than you're willing to provide. Make sure they don't waste your digital time, by setting a filter to direct them in to their own folder (and have them marked as red). You can always go back and see what's been deposited there – and delete them en masse, if necessary.
PRE-WRITE YOUR RESPONSE
Do you tend to be asked the same questions over and over again? Requests or invitations for your time? Try pre-writing some responses to your most asked questions, and then saving them to your signatures list (which will save you the time from copying and pasting). Next time you receive an unnecessary question, open the email and select the right signature for the job.
EMBRACE NEW TECHNOLOGY
Workplace solutions like Trello, Slack of HipChat have already reduced the amount of email sent within the workplace. Online applications like these allow you to communicate with colleagues or clients directly, eliminating the need for status updates and lunch invitations. You can even set up groups, so the team can talk directly without having to send 'check-in' emails. Every little helps.
SCHEDULE EMAIL TIME
The costs of multitasking are real. Avoid the distraction by setting an email schedule and sticking to it. Batching similar tasks – like checking emails - together makes you more efficient, and turns dealing with emails from a daily project to a specific task on your to-do list. It will also make you more productive overall, without the constant interruption of new mail.
STICK WITH IT
Each simple habit will take care of just a small chunk of your daily correspondence, but working in tandem can deliver a sparkling clean inbox. However, ignore one or two of them at your peril. It's your habits that will determine long-term success, and the sooner you begin the sooner you can make email work for you.