7 Pro Tips for Managing Your Bursting Email Inbox

Take control of email before it takes control of you!

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #516
image of a full inbox

5. Check Email Deliberately

If you try for inbox zero, you probably have notifications turned on and visible badges, telling you when you have unread messages in your inbox. You see the badge appear and you go handle email. Don’t. Turn off notifications and badges, and check email at defined points during the day. Rather than becoming an interruption, make it a deliberate act.

If you choose not to do the whole Inbox Zero thing, hide the little badges so all those unread messages don’t distract you by showing up in the badge count. Then—you guessed it—check your email at defined points during the day.

6. Raise the Stakes

Being a digital native, Jordan will always be able to reply to your messages faster than you can send them. And Jordan believes you only exist to make their life easier. So Jordan expects replies to each of the 200 messages they send every day.

Build a barrier! Change your email signature to say “NEED TO REACH ME QUICKLY? Call [insert your phone number]. I only check email once a day.” 

That’s because people use email as a way to be lazy. As soon as they have to move a finger, pick up a phone, and actually contract their mouth muscles, it’s way easier for them to answer their own question by Googling it for themselves. 

By raising the stakes, you’re still making yourself available, but they have to be willing to use actual muscular movement and vocal chord contraction in order to get your help. This will reduce the number of unimportant demands on your time by 99.9999%. This has been my email signature for over a decade and I can count on one hand the number of times someone has called.

And because digital natives often have terrible phone anxiety, Jordan will need several years of therapy before picking up the phone and moving their lips, which will give you even more breathing room before you have to handle Jordan’s problem for them.

7. Tame Your Email

Email is a big part of our communications flow, but since other people send it, it forces us to attend to their priorities, not our own. Retake control of your email! Throw away vacation email. Catch up on threads from a single message. Don’t use reply-all. Delete-then-rescue, musically or not. Check email at defined times, with notifications turned off, and raise the stakes so when people want a response, they have to move muscles and maybe even talk.

Paper mail was easy to receive, and hard to send. Email is the opposite, and the Jordans of the world use it to shift the work from themselves to you. Push back against this monster of convenience, so your life can be about working less & doing more.

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. If you've taken a course and want to integrate what you learned into your actual behavior, check out my “Get-it-Done Groups” accountability groups. Learn more at http://SteverRobbins.com. Image of full inbox © Shutterstock.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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