I’m sure you know the feeling. Rocking up to your desk Monday morning only to find hundreds of unread emails waiting for you. Some may be new, some old, some probably totally unnecessary however albeit still clogging up your inbox as you don’t have the time (nor inclination, most likely) to clear it out.
So why does a full inbox make us stressed? Ron Friedman (Social Psychologist, Professor & Author of “The Best Place To Work” ) explains:
“The reason it can feel overwhelming to find lots of emails in your work inbox, is that each message represents another demand on your time and another decision you have to make. Even deciphering a generic announcement about the office coffee maker requires effort, which leaves less energy for work that matters. The higher the number of demands placed on you, the more likely you are to experience stress, which impacts your ability to think and communicate clearly” he explains. “There’s no question that constantly checking email is bad for both productivity and quality of life,” Friedman adds. “There have been some fascinating studies (done in the US) showing that limiting email-checking to a few times a day, for instance 9:00am, midday & 4:00pm improves well-being and makes work feel more controllable.”
Sounds good to you? The reasoning behind it is simple “There are fewer distractions diverting your attention away from your current projects, enabling you to make more progress and therefore feel as if your workload is manageable”.
More progress and less stress certainly sounds good to me! So here are my 6 hacks guaranteed to clear out your inbox (for good!)
- Unsubscribe: Get yourself off every mailing list that’s not absolutely necessary. Cut that list down from the start!
- Email Segmentation: Create sub folders under your inbox. Create a rule to auto-file particular emails to their folder. Things you need to keep but don’t need to look at every day. Think meeting agendas, pre-reads, internal communications or reports.
- Create Email Templates: To save you time when replying to emails often repeated. Such as “Sorry but I don’t need to be at this meeting”, “Thanks for your interest in our products/services I will put you in contact with one of our sales team”. etc.
- Highlighting Important Emails: Using the conditional formatting function in Outlook, you will never miss an email from your boss or your team ever again by highlighting those emails in bold, a bright colour and even supersize font. If it pops right out of the list at you, less likely you will be to pass it by.
- Scheduling time to look at emails: Having set times each day to properly go through your email list and action anything important. I allow 30 mins each morning and afternoon for this task. Schedule it in your diary and stick to it!
- Read from the top down, Reply from the bottom up: If you learn to reply to your emails in chronological order, you are more likely to spend less time going back and forth with people and more likely to get through your list faster.