Email: the electronic communication tool that we've all come to love and hate.
From spam to notifications to the people who "reply-all" to "URGENT" subject lines, email can be an annoying thing.
Email is the real-time communication tool of choice for over three billion people around the world. Does it stress you out? It sure did for me. I used to have an unhealthy obsession with my inbox. I would constantly check my email, even when I wasn't expecting anything important, and it would always stress me out.
Here's a curveball for you: I love email (yes, it's a new love)!
Email is the best way to stay on top of the myriad of things needing my attention. I’m going to show you exactly how to master your inbox and reclaim your focus, so you can spend more time on things that really matter in life.
More Emails Doesn't Equal More Productive Work
Email is no unique problem and nothing new. It's been a constant part of our professional and personal communication for the last 20 years.
Still, we get it wrong in so many ways:
- Treating email like instant messenger
- Not setting expectations of when you'll provide a reply
- Mistaking "important" for "urgent"
- Subscribing to too many letters
- Failing to consolidate email clients or addresses
In almost all of the problems above, the common denominator is people adapting themselves to their email rather than making email work for them.
I've talked to so many people about how they handle their emails. Everyone has a system - from complex workflows to none at all. I'm here to tell you there's a happy medium framework that will get you to inbox zero every single day, faster.
Here's how, step by step:
Step 1: Define Your Email Techstack
Choosing an email provider is not always up to us or is widely available. You may have one assigned to you through work or school and total provider choices are quite slim.
My email techstack includes:
- Gmail as the email provider
- Superhuman to manage my email accounts (highly recommend!)
- ClickUp for all my tasks
- Zapier to automate it all
Your email techstack influences how you sort, prioritize, and take action on your inbox. Choose the tools that make the most sense for you.
Step 2: Schedule Email Time
If your goal is to get more meaningful work done this year, I have a suggestion for you: Schedule time for email every single day.
I have two slots each day (7:30am & 4:00pm) where I dedicate my time to processing emails. I've found that processing my email consistently throughout the day makes me feel good about my work and gives me space to focus on what's important rather than reacting mindlessly to new messages coming in.
Put it in your calendar and treat it as seriously as any other appointment.
Step 3: Following A Method
I follow the popular Superhuman method when going through my emails. Every email is handled with one of the following steps:
- Mark Done (i.e. archive) if no response is needed.
- Reply if you can in under 1 minute.
- Triage (e.g. set a reminder, or star the email) if the message needs more time.
- Repeat until you hit Inbox Zero!
This approach allows me to keep my inbox empty every day and be more productive by putting all my focus on what matters most.
Step 4: Create Tasks For Important Emails
Many people treat their inbox as a task list, keeping emails to "come back to" later. Your email isn't a productivity tool, it's a communication tool. Separating the two is a key part of my approach to inbox zero.
I use Zapier to automate this process in the following steps:
- When an email is starred, it gets sent to ClickUp with all of the email content (body and links) attached.
- Due dates are automated for 'next day at 7am' in ClickUp. This is with the assumption that this task was not urgent and required more than a few minutes to respond to.
- Finally, to maintain a 24-48 response time, I've added a 'response' tag to my task list in ClickUp. Additionally, automation flags the task if the tag is still "no" after 48 hours.
For some, this may look like too much work or unnecessary. Do what works for you, but be open to new processes.
Step 5: Split Your Inbox To Avoid Distraction
Let's talk about all the non-crucial emails we receive every single day. From order confirmations to newsletters to account notifications, we are bombarded with messages. Thankfully, many email providers have features to help you organize this mess.
Superhuman does a great job of this. Using various 'Split Inboxes' I can ensure that I receive the most important emails first while not missing anything else that may come through.
Take Back Control of Your Email
I prefer to keep my inbox at zero. While some people might call that obsessive, it's proven to be a great way to ensure that I never miss an important message and it keeps me focused on work that matters.
I hope you too can reach inbox zero and get more out of each day!
If you enjoyed this essay, give me a follow for more on startups and community:Follow @kasrakhalili