Your Inbox is NOT a To Do List

Liz Sumner Geek Tools, Productivity, Stop Doing What You Hate, Time Management Leave a Comment

squirrelI’m an in-box zero person and I use Mac Mail. I get squirmy and start hyperventilating when I see Gmail inboxes with many thousands of old emails. That will never be my style.

But I’m a firm believer in finding your own way. I know many productive people (well, some) who keep visible all of their email from time immemorial. Todoist had a good article about different inbox personalities. If your system works for you, that’s what matters.

Recently several people have told me that they struggle with distraction. They would like their email to be more orderly, and they want to stop going down rabbit holes that take away their focus.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Dedicate some time and resources to getting your mail to a clean starting place. You might need help– anyone from an impartial (yet ruthless) friend to a GTD consultant (or Productivity Coach). Her job is to keep you on track, have you trash the junk, and pat your hand when you start to panic.
  • Remember, your inbox is not a To-Do list. It’s not for reminding you. There are better systems for that. For example, one client is forwarding to her VA all of the things she wants to think about later.
  • Another system is to create folders such as “Things I Might Buy” or “Things I Want to Read Later.” Many email clients automate this for you sending emails to Evernote folders or your favorite project management app. Then add newsletter reading time to your calendar that is SEPARATE from email-reviewing time.
  • Make a habit of unsubscribing to emails that are of little interest. If the marketers don’t follow the rules and continue to email you, report it as spam.
  • Use mail rules to send selected emails directly to designated folders without touching your inbox. For example, I belong to a moderators group. I want to keep an eye on the conversation but don’t want to read it all the time, and certainly not every email as it arrives. I take a look at that folder now and then and see what’s being discussed.
  • There are some very convenient automated solutions to making your inbox more manageable. If you aren’t a tech-y person, ask for help. It will save you time and headaches in the long run.

When your in-box is under control you will feel more relaxed and able to focus. It will require some habit changes but you can still be you, and find the combination of fixes that suits your personality.

I welcome ideas and feedback from those of you who didn’t start from in-box zero but have found some tips that make your routine easier.

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