This post is sponsored by SaneBox, an email app that automatically prioritizes your new messages and helps you increase your inbox productivity. For a special offer from them, keep on reading! 🙌
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a thousand more times: email is a necessary evil.
It’s full of blogs, businesses, newsletters, and entrepreneurs trying to distract you from your business all the time. They pop in there with these enticing offers…a new blog post to read, a coupon to redeem, a video to watch…that you have to learn to say “not now” to when you’re trying to get stuff done.
But you can’t just ignore your inbox and hope those distractions will go away. Believe me, I’ve tried. And ya know what happened? I missed out on some really important ish that actually mattered to my job.
Because your inbox is where both your most and least important communication happen. You can’t just ignore it.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Your inbox is where both your most and least important communication happen. You can’t just ignore it, so learn to manage it better with @thatbberg’s tips #productivity” quote=”Your inbox is where both your most and least important communication happen. You can’t just ignore it, so learn to manage it better with these tips.”]
Instead, you need to streamline as much as possible, build productive habits, and trick yourself into opening up your inbox and not going insane on the daily.
Here are my best tips for building good inbox habits and keeping email from taking over your life.
1. Stay OUT of your inbox on the reg. Don’t keep the Gmail tab open.
Do you keep your inbox open in a tab, or even a separate app, at all times all day? Sorry, but you’re hardcore sabotaging yourself and your inbox is going to drive you insane.
Actually, I’m not sorry, because you freaking need this wake up call.
Seriously, friend, that is the WORST habit.
When it comes to digital decluttering, think of each app, window, and tab open on your computer as a different thing on your mind pulling at your attention.
When your social media scheduler’s up in a tab, even if you’re not really working on it, every time you look at that tab, your brain spends a few seconds distracted, thinking about the social media work you have to do.
The same is true for your inbox. Every time you see the Gmail envelope or Apple Mail icon, you subconsciously think about the emails you have to read and send.
And let’s not talk about incoming mail. If you have email open all day AND have any kind of notification when new email comes in, I have no idea how you get anything done.
Instead of always keeping your inbox open, ready to distract you at any point, set aside designated times to check email.
How often that needs to happen depends on how you prefer to manage your time and how much email you get. You could check email in short, frequent bursts throughout the week, like for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon.
Or if you really hate your inbox, you can suffer through it for longer, less frequent sprints, like checking email for an hour twice a week. It’s really up to you.
As long as you manage your inbox diligently (which the rest of this post will help with 😉) and communicate expectations with the people you talk to (so they’re not expecting immediate responses), you’ll be fine.
We all have this fear the world or our biz will collapse if we’re out of our inboxes for five minutes, but we’re all WAY less important than we pretend we are. 💁🏻
[click_to_tweet tweet=”‘We all have this fear the world or our business will collapse if we’re out of our inboxes for five minutes, but we’re all WAY less important than we pretend we are. 💁🏻’ via @thatbberg #productivity” quote=”We all have this fear the world or our business will collapse if we’re out of our inboxes for five minutes, but we’re all WAY less important than we pretend we are. 💁🏻”]
2. Don’t send an email as soon as you think of it
This comes back to staying out of your inbox all day, erryday. Batching email isn’t just about checking email, it’s about sending it too.
There are a lot of tasks that aren’t email, but that involve email.
For example, publishing a blog post can involve sending an email to anyone you mentioned or shouted out in it. Completing client work can involve shooting a quick question over to them. Planning your next course launch can mean checking with a coach or VA about the game plan.
But try not to send those emails right as they come up. Again, that takes you out of the moment and any deep work you may be doing. You won’t get back to what you were doing before for several minutes if you go write a new email. And that’s if you DON’T get distracted by your inbox, which is prettyyy likely.
Instead, treat emails to send like any other to-do. When you think of them, put them on your to-do list. Save them for the next time you have an inbox session.
If it helps, separate them from the rest of your tasks, and keep a separate “emails to send” list. 🙂
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Email tip: instead of jumping in and out of your inbox all day to send new emails as you think of them, keep a list of emails to send during your next scheduled inbox session. via @thattberg #productivity” quote=”Email tip: instead of jumping in and out of your inbox all day to send new emails as you think of them, keep a list of emails to send during your next scheduled inbox session.”]
3. Aim for unread zero, not inbox zero
Okay, I’m about to crush some people’s productivity goals. But here it is…inbox zero isn’t realistic for most of you.
Is it awesome if you can get there? Absolutely. 🙌
But it’s a term and a goal from a time where a LOT less email was sent. It was way easier to attain. Now, in the time it takes to read and reply to 3 emails, 5 new ones come in! Ugh.
It may not even make sense for you to even try to get to an empty inbox in the first place. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I like to say my goal is “unread zero” instead.
My goal is to read and take the immediate next action on each email.
But that next action IS NOT always replying to and archiving/deleting the email. As long as I’ve taken that next action, I’m good with an email chilling in my inbox for a few more days.
I might need to check on something or wait a certain amount of time. Maybe I replied to the email, but I need it in front of my face for some other reason. Who knows?
The point is, unread zero is practical and attainable and awesome. 😀
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Productivity tip: when it comes to email, aim for ‘unread zero’ instead of #inboxzero – via @thatbberg” quote=”Productivity tip: when it comes to email, aim for ‘unread zero’ instead of inbox zero.”]
4. Create action-based labels
The one downside of keeping read emails in your inbox is confusion. If you’re going to try it, make sure to use great labeling systems. That way it’s still easy to know which emails are “unfinished business” and which are just chillin. 😎
For this, I created 3 “action” labels that tell me what task is attached to it, and I even put a “.” at the beginning of their names so they show up first in my list of labels. They’re THAT essential. 💁🏻
The labels are:
- To do
- To reply
- To reference
This tells me without even having to open the email again, what I need to do before that email is ready to be archived or deleted.
It also means when I batch sending email, like in tip #2, I can quickly head to the “To reply” folder and see all the emails I need to send responses to, without getting distracted by my inbox.
When you’re putting together your to-do list for the week? Head to the “To do” label and add any tasks based on those emails.
It makes staying focused on the important parts of your inbox so much easier!
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Productivity tip: Create ‘action labels’ in Gmail to easily find any emails you need to reply to or reference later. via @thatbberg” quote=”Productivity tip: Create ‘action labels’ in Gmail to easily find any emails you need to reply to or reference later.”]
5. Use smart filters and email assistants
Now we really start having fun. Once you’ve fixed your own bad email habits, it’s time to protect yourself from other people’s.
I’m talking about the people who unnecessarily cc you. The marketers that continue to send you multiple emails a week despite the fact that you’re not engaged with their brand. The apps, tools, and websites that send you notification emails that you don’t want to see now but may need eventually.
Yes, you can actually protect yourself from the email you don’t want to deal with.
The most basic ways to do this include things like using Gmail Tabs to filter out promotional emails, or using Gmail rules to auto-archive emails that you don’t need to read but do need to save forever.
But, those can make mistakes and can be time-consuming to get set up. So now there are also what I like to call “even smarter filters.” 😝
These apps have super smart algorithms that basically turn them into an AI email assistant/bot. Take SaneBox.
It automatically moves unimportant email into a separate folder for you to deal with later, let’s you “snooze” email for later, set reminders for yourself to follow-up on certain emails, and quickly identifies any emails where you’re in cc or sent from a “do not reply” address.
You can even have a digest of your unimportant email sent to your real virtual assistant to go through and process. That’s seriously making delegation easy!
SaneBox’s special offer
Like I mentioned in the beginning of the post, SaneBox has a special offer for your today just for being awesome. 😀
While anyone can start a 14-day free trial, when you sign up through this link, you can get an additional $25 in credits for your account. The starter plan is $7/month, so this offer gives you almost 4 months to fall in love with SaneBox enough to continue paying.
Start organizing Gmail to break bad email habits
To end your inbox anxiety, you need to let go of your bad email habits and protect yourself from everyone else’s.
Be realistic with your goals, treat email as something to focus on her and there instead of all day, and make it as easy as possible to navigate your email and immediately see which emails you need to pay attention to.
- 10 Ways to Reach Inbox Zero Nice and Easy with Automation
- 17 Steps to an Intensely Satisfying Digital Declutter
- Do Your Thing: Time Management Systems for Entrepreneurs Who Hate Systems
This post was originally published on BrittanyBerger.com