I’ve enjoyed writing about emails this week, and if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that there are an incredible number of articles on the web about how to manage emails. The one thing which comes up again and again, especially from people who seem to have their business lives worked out efficiently, is that you shouldn’t be checking email every few minutes, but you should be responding to it quickly when you do check it. So, only check your email when you know you’ll have the time to reply and clear your inbox. This makes sense.
“Ah”, people will say, “but customers and colleagues use email to contact me urgently, so I can’t just check my email twice a day”. To which I’d have to say you need a better way for customers to contact you if it’s urgent (seriously: email?); and if that’s truly the case, what happens when you’re in a meeting, or on the road? I bet your emails aren’t being checked every five minutes then, yet the world goes on.
Keeping your inbox at zero should be the ultimate goal. This might involve moving emails into pending categories, but it’s the best way to eliminate email stress.
A controversial approach, if you really can’t keep your inbox empty, is to use a last-in, first-out technique. It’s better to reply promptly to important stuff and not at all to the stuff which hangs around the bottom of the pile (because it usually does so for a reason). The less desirable alternative is to be slow or unpredictable to reply to everything. Also, unimportant stuff which you leave long enough either comes back (“did you get my message…?”) or dies a natural death.
What are your top tips?