Think outside the inbox (pun intended)

Photo by Stephen Phillips — on Unsplash

Are you getting anxiety just by thinking about your inbox? Are you checking your e-mail constantly while working on a project? You might be too hung up on your inbox. When you feel emptying your inbox is a project all by itself on the daily, you should throw yourself an intervention.

Let’s see how we can make you feel less overwhelmed and let you be the narrator of your day instead of your inbox.

Only check your e-mail in the morning

I get it. You want to be on top of your game and reply to every single e-mail within the minute it lands in your inbox. But, may I raise an important note?

While this seems very productive and efficient, it’s not. You get distracted from the task at hand, and it’s challenging to get back into that disrupted flow again. Turn off your alerts and only check your e-mail at set times. Trust that if it’s essential, your colleagues or customers will find a way to contact you.

For me, it helps to check my e-mail in the morning before I get to my ‘real work’. I empty my inbox, which means I answer and archive e-mails or make sure the e-mails that require more attention get marked as a ‘to-do’. By ‘emptying’ my e-mail every morning I feel less anxiety throughout the day because I know people who will send an e-mail will get a reply at the latest the next morning, which isn’t all that bad.

Evaluate e-mails

The “Two-Minute Rule” (a concept from David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done) teaches us that e-mails that only take two minutes to read should be responded to straight away. E-mails that need more attention get evaluated as a ‘project’ and end up on a to-do list. This way you make sure high-priority e-mails get a quick reply and won’t stress you out by lingering somewhere in your inbox. Since all high- and low priority e-mails have been taken care of this way, your inbox should be (almost) empty and therefore give you a feeling of being in charge of your inbox versus your inbox being in charge of you.

Tell them to tone it down

To avoid getting cc’d in absolutely every e-mail: From brunch invites to puppy pictures (always cc me in those though) to actual work, when you are in cc it’s probably not a high priority. Ask your teammates to send a specific type of e-mail or make e-mails more efficient using bullet points.

Whatever makes you feel less stressed and more in charge, go for it! The better your colleagues or customers can collaborate with you, the better.

There are a gazillion lifehacks for inbox management. Your preferred communication tool probably even has settings where you can apply your own rules, such as time scheduling, starring, and organizing. Find out what works for you and start your workweek stress-free!

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Kristin Rose

Kristin Rose

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