How to Solve the Problem That Is Your Inbox

Look at the emails in your inbox right now. I don’t have to see your inbox to know that you have a problem with email. We all have the same problem.

Some large number of the emails that show up in your inbox each day are commitments that are being made for you without your consent.

Provide Information: Many of the emails you receive are requests for information. You did not agree to provide the information, and even if you have a duty to provide it, you haven’t agreed to a timeline. But you feel a psychological duty to respond to that request in real-time.

FYI: Some emails were sent to keep you informed. The commitment being made for you is that you will read the email and be aware of something. But you didn’t commit to read what the sender sent you, and you haven’t agreed to the time by which you will read it. Because it is in your inbox, you feel duty-bound to read it, and maybe you should.

The first thing you need to do to take control of your inbox is to change your beliefs about your priorities and your commitments. Email is a place where other people share their priorities. The fact an email landed in your inbox doesn’t necessarily make it your priority. You haven’t made the commitment to respond to every email in real time.

Create a filter for client emails. Create a filter for VIP emails. Use these filters to stay on top of the emails that you are likely to need to respond to quickly.

Create a filter for anything where you are cc’d or bcc’d. You can read and review these emails on your own time.

Use a service like Sanebox to automate some of the work of deciding what is worth your attention.

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Filed under: Productivity

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