As someone who constantly struggles with managing my Inbox, I was thrilled when Chris Cichon of Baydin, maker of productivity software, asked to be a guest blogger and share tips. Deleting email and clearing the clutter is a goal that seems impossible to keep up with on a regular basis. I'm game for anything that can help.
Here are Chris's suggestions:
In a recent episode of his podcast, Alex Blumberg, producer for "This American Life" and co-founder of Planet Money, admitted to having over 78,934 unread emails in his inbox. If you printed out every one of his unread emails on one sheet of paper and stacked them on top of each other, it would be almost 13 feet high and would weigh in at over 780 pounds! Having unread email piling up in your inbox can often feel like you are carrying all of that weight on your back. It doesn't have to be this way.
As the makers of one of the top email productivity tools, Boomerang for Gmail, we study a lot about the email and productivity habits of highly successful email users. One of our best tips is paradoxically to check your email less frequently. A study that was recently published found that email users who check their email three times a day rather than more often end up sending and receiving approximately the same amount of email, but do so in 20 percent less time.
If you need help building up the discipline of checking your email less, use Inbox Pause to have your email batch delivered to your inbox at set times.
Ultimate Email Workflow: A majority of our users find this to be the most efficient email workflow. Using this method, you should be able to clear through 51 emails in a 20-minute session, meaning even if you get 150 emails a day you shouldn't have to spend more than an hour managing your email.
With every message, you can take one of four actions: Respond, Archive, Delete, or Defer. As a reminder, we recommend checking email only a few times a day, and go through all of the emails in your inbox during these sessions. Leave emails that require substantial work for the end of these sessions.
Respond: David Allen is a time management guru made famous from his book and methodology of "Getting Things Done." He has a great best practice that can be applied to email that he coins 'The 2-Minute Rule.' As you go through your inbox, if you can respond to a message in 2 minutes or less, respond then and archive it.
Archive: If the email is something you have already taken care of, just an FYI from a colleague, or doesn't need a response – archive it and move onto the next message. You'll always be able to search for it later, and with the powerful search features built into email clients, it will be much faster than scanning through your cluttered inbox.
Note: The term 'archive' means slightly different things in Gmail and Outlook – we are referring to the Gmail version where it moves the message out of your inbox, but it's still searchable. If you are using Outlook, we recommend creating a folder called 'Done' or 'Old' and moving the message there instead.
Delete: This is pretty straightforward, but if you won't even need the email again – such as an old calendar invite or spam message – send it to the trash and be done with it!
Defer: You may not be able to answer every email right now because you are waiting for more information or it concerns something that you need to handle in the future like a flight confirmation. Use Boomerang to defer (or snooze) these messages until the time when you have the information you need or are ready to address them.
Boomerang will move the message out of your inbox and bring it back right at the top at the exact time that you specify.
If you need some help sticking to these suggestions, use The Email Game – it's a free product that integrates into Gmail and gamifies email workflow. It uses a timer to provide a sense of urgency and awards you points as you work through your inbox to keep you motivated.
Other Email Tips: The data from millions of emails shows that people are more likely to read (and respond) to your emails if you send it between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. This isn't always convenient though, especially if you aren't a morning person. Thankfully, you can use Boomerang for Gmail to schedule your emails for a later delivery. Scheduling an email to send later is particularly handy if you are a night owl who enjoys working late at night, but don't want your colleagues or clients to know that you're working on their presentation at 2am.
Boomerang can also automatically remind you if you haven't received a reply to an email, so you'll never forget to follow up again.
Take Action: Hopefully these tools and techniques can help you be better at time management and find a good work/life balance.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her columns and blog at http://worklifebalancingact.com/.
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