The average person checks their email 11 times in an hour, processes 122 messages a day, and spends 28 percent of their work week managing their inbox. So says Jocelyn K. Glei in her book Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done.
We don’t fare well off-duty either: Over 80 percent of workers monitor their email over the weekend and nearly 60 percent tend to their inboxes on vacation, reports Glei. Most of us aim for inbox zero before heading for holidays, but come New Year the vicious cycle of email overload and distraction starts all over again.
Here’s the GamePlan A method for detoxing and managing your inbox for the holidays and beyond. We call it: SPORT. Too obvious? Good. Then it’s easy to remember.
We know these rules aren’t universal for everyone – freelancers, for example, might not have the luxury of logging off entirely – but let’s break these rules down.
Switching off is one of the most basic productivity tricks and it bears repeating: It’s time to turn off notifications and start living in the real world. We recommend going cold turkey and eliminating all notifications on all your devices for the holidays.
But wait, you probably still have that little bubble – an aggressive red one if you’re an iPhone user – hovering over the app, gently reminding you how many messages require your attention. What purpose does seeing that number serve every time you unlock your phone, roughly 80 times per day? Get rid of it. Final step: Move the email app icon to another screen or folder. Out of sight, out of mind.
When you’re back in the office, reassess your notification needs on your phone and computer. Which ones are truly useful and which ones are there just to zap your productivity and sanity?
Let’s create better email habits. One popular piece of advice is to check your inbox only at designated times of the day. If this is feasible, block time in your calendar dedicated solely to responding to emails.
Time-blocking or not, everyone should still have a system for prioritizing replies. Productivity coach David Allen of Getting Things Done fame champions the ‘Two-Minute Rule’: If you can process an email in two minutes, get it done right away and move on. If it will take longer, schedule it for when you’ll be focused on more time-consuming tasks.
Whatever your method, common sense is your ally. Learn to recognize when an email is truly urgent and when it’s just your desire to appear efficient.
Perhaps as simple as Marie Kondo – world-renowned advocate of the life-changing magic of tidying up – who organizes all her emails in two categories: ‘Unprocessed’ and ‘Save’.
Don’t forget your email client’s powerful search function. You’ll surely find that missing message with search much faster than by digging through your intricate folder hierarchy which only made sense at the time you created it.
While organizing your inbox, set up rules to automatically move certain incoming emails, such as newsletters and recurring updates, to designated folders for later reading.
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner’s golden rule of email management is brilliantly simple: “If you want to receive less emails, send less emails.”
Reduce the amount of outgoing notes by taking conversations to collaboration tools like Slack or Trello and instant messaging apps. And who knows, maybe a good old-fashioned phone call or a face-to-face chat might do the trick.
This brings us to our final step:
We’ve all been there: Someone (not you, of course) hits ‘Reply all’ on a mass thread, starting an email Armageddon.
Don’t be that person. Think twice, or better yet, take as long as you need, before hitting ‘Reply all’.