1. Normally I don’t look at email until after lunch (and not at all on my day off, or on holidays). That way I can focus on the work I’m meant to do in the morning, rather than constantly toggling between email and work. Checking emails is a notorious distraction from getting things done, so we need to be disciplined in not allowing email to intrude on us all the time.
2. For this reason, I’ve removed email from my phone, and I would never have settings that alert me every time an email comes in. I just don’t need to be that connected – I’m easily enough distracted as it is!
3. Having taken these basic self-defence measures, the key then is to think about every email as a rock - you only want to have to lift it once, not move it around time and again. And this means that when I read an email I think…
4. Does it need a response at all? If not, I’ll delete it, or archive it.
5. If it does need a response, I’ll respond to it right away (this is one of the reasons why emails should be short!).
6. If it requires an action that can’t be done instantly, I’ll schedule in my calendar when I will do that task, and archive the email.
7. I don’t have nests of email folders. I know many people are very committed to their nested folders, but creating files like this simply creates filing to be done, and that wastes loads of time. Either delete emails, or simply archive them - if you do need them for any reason later (and normally you won’t), you can search for them easily enough. Nested folders are just an inefficient means of maintaining a complicated to-do list! Get rid of them!
8. I try to delete or archive every email in my inbox in one sitting, then turn off email and don’t look at it again until 2pm the following day!
9. Oh, and be ruthless about unsubscribing from everything you can, and filtering spam. You really don’t need to be subscribed to all those things you’re subscribed to!
10. Finally, sign up for the email charter, and add this link to your email signature: Too brief? Here’s why! http://emailcharter.org