There were so many blog post written on how to handle emails to get to inbox zero. Having an empty inbox means you have nothing left on your mind. Having nothing on your mind is very liberating and can boost productivity and creativity.
My advice it to live by the rule of three Ds. So how does it work? When you open your email, you only let your self to do one of the following: to delete it, to delegate it or to actually do what needs to be done in order to delete the email.
Sometimes you get a newsletter that you think you will read when you have the time. You most probably won’t. Delete the sucker. Now depending on your current habits you can also archive it (this means that you don’t go and check “All emails” tab!). Don’t be afraid deleting mails from real people too. If they really need you, they will write again anyway.
Delegate does not only mean you forward the email to someone else. You can copy the task to your todo list. You can save the newsletter in your reading list. This will sound a bit silly, but sometimes I decide not to reply to an email immediately, because I don’t want to look too eager. You might just have to sleep over an email to calm down. In those cases I use Boomerang.
This action comes last for a reason. You should spend as little time in your inbox as possible. The best case of “doing” is replying. Try to keep other tasks under 5 minutes, if it takes more, delegate it as a todo item. Don’t use your email as a todo list though, because some tasks might not come from an email. When you are doing tasks from a todo, you should keep away from email.
Other very importing things around emails are also:
- Don’t check for emails too often. Disable all email notifications, specially on the phone. Try to have a longer period of time, when you haven’t checked email.
- Do not have multiple emails or multiple inboxes. For example, I had emails from info mail coming to a separated folder, and then I had to check that folder too.
- Use tools like IRC, Slack or Skype for day-to-day communication. We only use emails internally when we want to deliver longer, important messages that we don’t want to get missed in the thread.