Take Control Of Your Inbox (and LIFE!) With Three Easy Questions

There was a time when I would see someone say something like “Inbox Zero” on Twitter or Facebook and swear that they were lying. How could they possibly have emptied their inbox at 10:00 AM? I was sitting in a mess of hundreds of thousands of unread, some half read emails, not knowing where to start. To tackle the problem, I did the first logical thing: tuned to Facebook for distraction. There was my first error.

Before we get into the questions that will change the way you look at how you handle everything from your inbox to your life, we should cover one main rule:

Avoidance does not solve anything. Ignoring the problem makes the problem bigger.

Looking at everyone else’s inbox statuses wasn’t doing anything for my own situation other than letting more incoming mail build up in my inbox.

Time To Begin The Process

Eventually you will work up the gusto to start attacking your inbox. You reach out your hands, stretch your arms, straighten your posture and then… what? Where do you begin?

The easy answer: Start with the newest email. You might wonder why you shouldn’t go for the oldest email as it has been there the longest. Listen, if that email is in fact THAT urgent, the sender will send a followup email to it. For now, we’re taking the first email and we’re going to ask it a few qualifying questions:

The Three Questions To Ask To Begin Organizing Your Email Box

  1. Are you actionable? And Can you take action within 30 seconds?
  2. Can I delegate you? (Can I give this email task to someone else to get it done?)
  3. Are you old or better off in the archives?

It may be hard to believe, but each and every email that you receive will meet one of those criteria. Let’s put it to the test.

  • My top email is from: My Cable Company reminding me that my bill is due now.
    • Is it actionable? – Yes. I can take action on it.
    • Can I take action in 30 seconds? – Yes, it’s just a point and a click and the bill is paid.
    • Do it

Okay. That email is done. And now I’ve filed that email away in bills. Let’s try one more

  • My next email is from a client asking me to do a revision on an article that I have written them.
    • Is is actionable? – Yes. I can take action on it.
    • Can I take action in 30 seconds? – no, I would need more time.
    • Can I delegate it? –Yes I could, but I prefer to do my own editing
    • Is it better off in the archives? – No. This needs to be done

Now what? We’ve gone through all of the questions, and now this action has been deemed something that needs to go onto your schedule as something to do. Put it on your outlook calendar or in your planner and set aside 30-40 minutes to do this task. Don’t do it now. But send your editior an email letting them know you saw this email and will be doing the edits at XO’clock today.

Move onto the next email.

How To Keep Your Email Box Managed On a Day To Day Basis

If you have 20-40 emails each day, this should basically take you about 20 minutes over your morning coffee.

If you have an overloaded email box, commit 20 minutes each morning to getting rid of some of the junk. Always start with the new stuff, so that way you’re not falling behind.

What you will find is that there are a lot of things that are able to be done in about 30 seconds (like sending an email or paying a bill) and you can get them off of your mind. There are a number of others that you can delegate to someone else, like organizing a co-worker get together. Some things will truly need to be scheduled because they are important, and that’s okay, too.

Bonus: These questions work well in life, too. When a problem arises: Is it actionable? Can I do it in 30 seconds? Can I delegate it? Should I just forget about it? More things will end up in your delegate and/or forget about it file than you ever thought.

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