3 rules to survive and win the email battle

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Day 558. Do you receive too many emails? If not, then you can go back to what you were doing previously. If yes, just continue reading, because I will give you my own personal 3 rules to win the email battle that take literally 5 seconds to implement and allow you to free time to do meaningful work. Before getting into those rules, I need to clarify one simple point: email is just one of the many ways to communicate and is the asynchronous way. Asynchronous means that when you press the Send button, your email can take some time to be delivered and the recipient may not be online or not in front of his or her email client, so he or she will receive it later and may answer later too. So we come to our first rule:

  1. If you expect an urgent answer, do not use email, use instant message, phone the person, or walk to his or her desk. In other word: speak!
  2. Put each email you receive and read in one of those three buckets: trash, archive, action. All those emails that you are copied on or that you receive because you are part of a distribution list will go to trash. But hey you tell yourself, it may be important! Sure it may. And I assure you that if it’s really important you will hear about it through other ways of communication soon! And if you feel it’s important, read and archive! As for those email that you can answer in less than 30 seconds, answer them immediately and move! For those that require some work, keep them, flag them, change them into a task and put them in your calendar. In that case apply some judgement. Some email do not require urgent action, plan them for the next day or the next week.
  3. End your day with an empty mailbox. Yes, you read it well, empty your mailbox. If you applied rule two, at the end of each day, each email will have been either trashed, archived or actioned upon, your mailbox will be empty!

I always smile when people tell me they receive too many emails. You receive too many emails because you let others send you too many emails. It’s not about others, I am sorry to say it’s all about you! You are the master of your mailbox, do not let your mailbox rule!

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