In this series of posts I’ll begin to answer (at least, I’ll try) the fundamental questions about processing the emails in your inbox, which is, in my opinion, one of the most important aspects of personal productivity in the Digital Era (you can check one of my previous posts about the volume of emails I receive). I will try to avoid messing with your methodology for dealing with to-dos, appointments and the likes: I’ll stop just after an email leaves your inbox.
The questions? Oh, the “easy” ones: What, Why, Where, When, Who and How.
What are we speaking of, exactly? This post addresses the process of delving into your inbox and, by various means, reduce/delete/archive/put into to-do lists your email, with some basic requirements in mind:
- Avoid missing important information
- Putting every email in the right folder
- Being as quick and efficient in the process as possible
- Automation, automation, automation
The answer to this question can depend on your personal preferences and the type of activities you are involved into.
At a basic level, managing emails is done for the same reasons which motivates us to read our snail mail, answer our phone or replying to someone calling out our name:
- we want to stay connected with other people
- we feel an obligation for a group or people or an organisation
- we want to keep ahead of facts and news
- we are looking out for new opportunities
Personally, emails are a source of anxiety and a necessary evil in my working day. Every time I see a new email, my mind pictures the worst: unhappy colleagues, enraged bosses, angry clients. It goes without saying that 999 times out of 1000 there are no real problems, and the single exception is far from being the end of the world. Nevertheless, it is a pain for my poor lizard brain, thus a strict discipline and a methodology are welcome.
I have only one advice about finding an apt location for dealing with your inbox: try to be as near as possible to anything that could be useful to perform actions required by reading a mail. It can be anything ranging from a telephone or a notepad to something very specific to your line of work. This will be useful for applying the “two minutes rule” that will be discussed in the How section of this analysis.
In the second part of the series I’ll take a shot at the three remaining questions: until then, I wish you an inbox full of good news.