If you like an empty inbox, raise your hand!
There's something strangely satisfying about a clean inbox. It also helps with productivity.
Let's say I have 10 messages that need my attention. If my inbox is clean otherwise, I can zip right through those 10 in a few minutes. However, if my inbox is full of old messages too, it takes me twice as long to deal with the same 10 messages. Something about the clutter slows me down.
So here are my tips:
Touch it once!!
This is a mindset you have to work hard to get into, but once it becomes habit, you'll love it!
When you open a message, review it and then do something with it…but don't let it sit there! Emails that sit there only have to be weeded through again later, costing you more valuable time.
Be bold. Make a quick decision. You have 4 choices:
1. Respond to it
If you can respond to the email message in less than 2 minutes, do it on the spot. It'll be out of your hair. It'll feel good. (And don't forget about that Send & Archive feature to save yourself some time!)
2. Task it
Is it something you need to act on but doing so will take more than a couple of minutes? Put it on your task list. Then, when you're in a get-things-done mode, you can tackle your task list — no weeding through your inbox to find what you have to do.
3. Archive it
This is one of the most brilliant feature of Gmail (you do use Gmail, right?). I know why you have a full inbox. It's because you're afraid you'll need a message later. Well, my friend, archive it. If you do, it'll only be one simple search away.
What is archiving? It's sending your emails into a "holding tank" somewhere in your Gmail account — we don't care where, as long as it's not in your inbox!
"But how will I find it?" you ask. Simple. Basically, you'll Google it. Gmail has a search feature which is like your very own Google search for your Gmail. Need that email from Aunt Jane? Simply search "aunt jane" in your Gmail search bar at the top of your inbox screen and all your messages with those words will pop up. No need to deal with the hassle of making a file, filing it and hoping you'll remember where you filed it later.
Believe me, archiving is a dream.
4. Delete it (or Spam it)
This one is a no-brainer, but do you really need it? If you know straight away you don't, just delete. Done.
- Schedule a 5-minute lightning blitz through your inbox at least once a day (the key word is schedule). Set the timer, and go. Start at the top of your inbox, Then move on the the next. Remember, touch it once!
- If your inbox is completely out of control, declare email bankruptcy. That is, bite the bullet and delete it all (or, if you're not quite ready to take such a definite step, archive it all). Start over, start fresh. After all, if it's been sitting there for months, the person who's waiting for your reply is most likely over it. So, decide which most recent messages you want to keep, select the rest and delete or archive. No one will die, I promise…and think of how free you'll feel.