I used to approach my inbox with a feeling of dread and anxiety. Hundreds of emails piled up, some from over a year ago. The task of managing emails effectively seemed monumental. My day felt reactive and my inbox ruled. As a result I suffered massive email anxiety. I thought there had to be a way to eliminate that feeling and manage my emails better. After some research I discovered a few habits that I had to change.
1) Your inbox is not a to-do list
Do not use your inbox as a holding space for emails. When approaching your inbox for the first time each day manage it by using these 3 simple steps:
- Spend the first couple of minutes deleting all of the irrelevant emails, they usually come in the form of spam or from sites that you may have subscribed to.
- Second read the emails that require a simple response or are just an FYI then delete immediately or file.
- You will be left with emails that are actionable. These are usually the ones that plant themselves firmly in your inbox until you get around to completing the task. Don’t fall into that trap. Write the task down as part of your day plan and archive the email.
The most important take-out on this point is read and action your emails with the goal to keep your inbox empty.
2) Don’t send emails
The more emails you send the more you will receive. Only send necessary emails and be concise. Set up email signatures for emails that you commonly send, this will save a lot of time. Be selective using CC, does that person really need to be included in the correspondence or is it just an opportunity to receive one more response?
3) Set up a routine
Don’t let emails run your day. Set aside two times during the day to review emails. It doesn’t necessarily have to be first thing in the morning. You know when you are most productive. For me the morning is the best time to achieve more difficult, business critical tasks. I set aside 30 minutes at 11am and 4pm devoted to checking and actioning emails. This was key in taking control of my day again.
To manage the daily onslaught of emails you must be disciplined. Put a plan in place and stick to it. At first it will feel uncomfortable, but persevere. Breaking your bad email habits is key to deleting your email anxiety.