How to Manage Email

I’m always astounded at people with thousands of unread emails sitting in their inboxes; I get anxious when I have more than ten.

I generally try to keep inbox zero, but in actuality, I usually have 1-3 emails sitting in my inbox.┬áHere’s how I manage my email:

1. Does this email require any action from me? If not, archive immediately (press e if you’ve enabled keyboard shortcuts; I also apply whatever labels are necessary at this point if I need to keep tabs on it). This is generally 80% of my email.

2. For emails that require action of me, can I do this action in less than 2 minutes? If so, do it immediately, then archive the email. This is 10% of my email.

3. For emails that require action of me and will take more than 2 minutes, mark the email as important somehow, write myself a task to do, and archive the email. This is the remaining 10% of my email.

The key parts to this plan are incredibly aggressive archiving and recognizing that keeping things sitting in my inbox doesn’t make me more likely to do them and instead just makes my life feel more cluttered. I used to keep interesting articles, things that I should research, things that I should get back to but don’t have to necessarily do, etc. sitting in my inbox, but I realized that I never returned to them 99% of the time. So now, I instead force myself to take an action of some sort immediately, and then archive the email so it doesn’t sit around and make me feel guilty.

Of course, this means that sometimes my to do list gets a little out of control, but I’ll get to managing tasks at a later time. In the meantime, what are your favorite tips for managing your email?

4 thoughts on “How to Manage Email

  1. Chris

    I like the blog!
    I keep more mail in my inbox as I don’t mind the clutter. To stop it from getting out of control though, at the end of each month, I schedule an hour (or sometimes more) where I force myself to deal with every item received that month. That can be reading the article, watching the cat video, or just putting it into a todo list and archiving. This also ends up being a nice time to read a bunch of articles at the end of the month and reflect a little bit on the last few weeks.

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