Email is one of the most universally powerful tools ever created. But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’ve asked one of the most responsible people we know for help with maximizing the power we get out of our email. So are you ready to walk the path to email nirvana? If so, let these 5 tips for inbox zen be your guide to telecommunications tranquility.
Set intervals throughout your day to review and work through your Inbox with intention and focus. Don’t allow email to constantly distract you from work or life throughout the day because that habit can soon bleed into nights and on weekends. When not processing your Inbox, do just that – NOT processing your inbox! Quit your email client and/or silence all email notifications, especially on mobile devices, so you don’t get distracted.
Your Inbox is not a To-Do List
Of course, some emails require you to take action, but often that action can be taken later. Don’t treat your inbox like a task manager. Instead, utilize task management tools like Wunderlist, Todoist, and Trello for that and leave your inbox for emails.
Most task or project management tools allow you to forward email into them. Use this feature liberally to move tasks to the right tool to keep your inbox clear while putting reminders in their place.
Plus, if you want to keep your email and task manager the same, Gmail even has a task list built-in with a keyboard shortcut to add an email to your list.
Suggested Tools: Wunderlist, Todoist, Trello, and Google Tasks
Reply When Ready or Not at All – aka Punt!
When you first see an email you may not be ready or able to reply to it. Leverage an email client that allows you to snooze an email. Just like your alarm clock, snoozing an email helps you manage when you deal with it. You can push emails to the next business day, weekend, next week or at a specific date and time – when you will be ready to focus on replying.
Proactively Protect Your Time
There are always new meetings to schedule with so-and-so to discuss such-and-such. Just because there will always be new meetings doesn’t mean that you have to email back and forth to schedule them. Instead, try giving your attendees a list of dates and times to choose from in the initial response. This allows you to manage your time instead of the other party taking control. Some email clients, Outlook for iOS and Android and Nylas-N1, even allow you to insert a sleek list of options for the recipient to choose from.
Suggested Tools: Outlook for iOS/Android, Airmail, Polymail, Nylas-N1
Automate, Automate, Automate
Your company sends a boatload of notification and alerts which, for anyone who is typically paying attention to what’s going on, is really nothing more than extra noise. Most apps and services have filters or rules. Use them to file, delete or forward these emails as you need. This will reduce the clutter in your inbox and silence the noise in your email zen garden.
Suggested Tools: Google Gmail, Apple Mail, Airmail, Polymail, Nylas-N1
Let others have the last word
Don’t respond to emails with “Thanks,” “Sounds good,” or ?. These emails are nice, but create opportunities for more distractions. Another benefit is the less you say, the more your emails will be read – others will know it’s important if you send something.
Suggested Tools: You!