Are you addicted to your blackberry, in love with your iPhone? Studies show that people now check email every 5 minutes. Even though we are doing a lot of “checking”, we are not really “processing” all that stuff that’s coming at us each day. This results in cluttered inboxes, things slipping through the cracks, stress, overwhelm and frustration.
Below are three proven techniques to help you take charge of your inbox and eliminate email clutter for good!
1. Apply the 4 D’s of effective email processing
- DO: If an email can be processed in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
- DELETE: If the material is trash or junk, delete it and move on.
- DEFER: If the task is one that can’t be completed quickly and is not a high priority item, simply defer it. Put it in a folder marked “To Do” or “Action Items”. If it is a newsletter or something you want to read later put it in a “To Read” folder. You can also move items directly into your calendar or To Do list. To make this process easier, check out programs such as Remember the Milk, Evernote or Tootledo.
- DELEGATE: If you can delegate the task, forward it to the right person with clear instructions on how to handle it.
Processing vs. Checking Email – we “check” e-mail on the run, on planes, trains and automobiles (hopefully not while driving) and even in the bathroom! Processing email however, i.e. using the 4Ds above requires a chunk of uninterrupted time to really focus.
The reason inboxes are so crowded is because we often take care of the quick 2 minute emails on the run, get to some of the more important items done and the rest just sits there, causing stress and that feeling of just not being on top of it al.
Avoid using your inbox as a giant receptacle that holds all your emails. Even with powerful search functions on email programs today, it is cumbersome and unwieldy to wade through thousands of emails.
Make sure to schedule uninterrupted blocks of time to process your email a couple of times per day.
Zero Inbox – Zero inbox is a very exciting concept and even more exciting to implement. It literally means to have no emails in your inbox.
When processing email (i.e. using the 4 Ds above), keep the focus on getting to zero. This will force you to make the tough decisions regarding all the stuff that’s coming at you each day. It’s the best way to take charge of your inbox and eliminate email clutter for good!
How many emails are in your inbox? Have you tried the zero inbox method? Post a comment below and let us know!
Great article Angela. I recently did the zero email thing…but of course has since filled up. I’m committing to do the zero email once a month…then eventually once a week.
Now I have a great method to use– your 4 D’s– thanks Angela. Keep sending the articles. But not too many I don’t want to fill up my email inbox. [LOL! teehee–I couldn’t resist]
Here’s a quick tip to help you get to zero super fast…
Create a “For Review Folder” and move everything from your inbox into it.
Your inbox is now at zero! For the week ahead, apply the 4D’s to keep your inbox clear and clutter free.
In the meantime, you can continue to process the emails in your “For Review” folder.
Try it and let me know how it goes!
OMG you would not believe how many emails are in my in box! Thanks for this post I found it very helpful. I am going to try what you suggested. What I have done in the past that I do not suggest as a regular practice is to delete everything that is more than 9 mo. old!
Thanks for the post!
One way to look at it – very empowering actually and a total paradigm shift – is that each email is an opportunity to hone decision making skills. Say you have 25 emails per day. That’s 25 decisions you get to make.
It’s been said that clutter is “deferred decision-making”. So if you make those tough decisions on the spot, the emails won’t pile up.
Please let me know how it goes with the 4Ds and zero inbox.
The times I’ve hit zero emails in the inbox, I’ve been so much clearer and focused on the things I really need to do. It’s challenging for those items that actually need a little ‘marinating’ before responding. That’s where I sometimes get stuck. Plus, there is this odd expectation of an instantaneous answer – which doesn’t work in all cases.
Deborah – this is a great point. One solution is to create a “marinating” folder for things that need more thought before a decision can be made. Thanks for posting!