I hate wasting time. Most people do. Email is one of the most time consuming activities you’ll do day-in day-out. And inside of the world of email distinguishing between important and non-important emails requires quite a bit of work. Mostly because you don’t know something is important before you look at it.
What if you only get important emails? What if 99% of the incoming emails on your inbox are important? Would that help? Here are a few ways I figured out how to get less “unimportant” emails on your inbox:
#1: Unsubscribe from marketing lists
You know how it goes. You buy a product at Amazon.com and the default setting after you sign up is to receive their promotional emails. Same thing for Costco, Target, Office Depot, etc. If the email is coming from a shopping site you trust, just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom. If you do that for all “newsletters” and “promo emails” you’ll probably get 50 or 100 less emails per month.
#2: Send short emails without loose ends
If you spend a few extra minutes removing the clutter from the emails you send, making phrases clearer, making the important point upfront, and writing less content, you are less likely to get a reply back asking to explain something, or to clarify something else.
#3: Send less emails!
How many emails did you receive as a result of an email you originated? Seriously, just send less email and you’ll get less emails on your inbox.
#4: Be careful how you “close” your messages
Do you finish your emails with “Let me know if it works”, “let me know if you need something else” or “let me know if you received this”. Why? Why are you doing that to you? Why are you inviting more messages into your inbox? Try ending with “let me know if it doesn’t work”.
#5: There are other forms of communication
A big mistake is to use email as the only form of communicating with others. The biggest mistake of them all is to use email as an Instant Messaging platform. Install an IM like Messenger, AOL or Yahoo, and learn how to use Twitter. There is also the phone and walking to someone’s office.
#6: TO: myself
Hi, I’m Marcelo. I have a problem. I email myself. There, I said it and I’m ashamed to admit I continue to do that. I email myself to remind of things to do, to remind me of blog posts to write, or to keep an email-trail of something important. Now, I have to say I only email myself once or twice a week, but I know people that do it a half-dozen times per day. If you are like that, can’t you find some other alternative to track to-do items?
#7: The 3 Round-Trip Rule
How many times you’ve been on an email thread with another person that just kept going back and forth. Question. Answer. Question clarifying the answer. Question to clarify the question. Answer. Two other questions. STOP! Stand up and walk to someone’s office to talk about it. If they are not on the same building, just pick up the phone and call them.
#8: If It’s not for you…
If your name is not on the TO or CC line, it’s unimportant. Create a folder called “Inbox-2” and add rule that moves every email where your name is not explicitly on the TO or CC line to “Inbox-2”. After you are done with your Inbox you can visit your Inbox-2. If people were expecting an answer from you and didn’t get it, you just say your name was not on the TO line.
I hope this helps a few of you out there and thanks to Brad Feld to make me paranoid about email productivity.