Do you feel overwhelmed by the number of emails constantly flooding your inbox? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 269 billion emails are sent daily. An office worker receives an average of 121 emails per day. Yikes.
Sometimes I feel powerless when I stare at my inbox. It’s a constant game of whack-a-mole. I delete one, three pop up. I respond to three, five more pop up.
Will it ever end?
- The bad news: Probably not.
- The good news: There’s a trick that can help you tame the email beast!
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, swears by his email management technique called the Yesterbox method.
Here’s how it works:
Mark your calendar to begin each day by going through your inbox and responding to yesterday’s emails only. While you’ll never get your inbox down to zero, you will zero out emails from the day before, which creates a great sense of completion.
This way, there is a finite number of emails that you have to deal with and not a never-ending stream of emails. Magic!
Depending on the number of emails you get and their complexity, it could take you up to a few hours. Stick to it for a week and it will become a habit, and you’ll start each day off on a productive note.
What if you need to respond to something immediately? Don’t. First, ask yourself if it can wait 48 hours without causing any harm. This is the hardest part, and will take the most discipline.
People know they can contact you anywhere, anytime, on mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops.
Resist the temptation
Boundaries are the boss. If it can wait until tomorrow, then it’s simply part of tomorrow’s to-do list. You need to train yourself and others to value your time.
It’s really tough not to look at the new emails coming in as you’re going through yesterday’s batch. Set a rule that you must process 10 emails before you look at any of the new messages.
Once you’ve completed 10, reward yourself with getting to read new emails. Read, not respond to. Remember, boundaries.
The tough ones
Some emails may require more thought or a good amount of research in order for you to respond. If it’s going to take you more than 10 minutes, move the message to a designated folder and schedule time on your calendar to deal with it. Treat it like another meeting, giving it the attention it deserves.
If that means an hour, then schedule an hour on your calendar.
If you have to schedule a meeting in the morning, then move your email time to another slot during the day, but don’t skip it. If you fall behind on emails that are older than yesterday’s inbox, schedule additional time to deal with them. Going on vacation and not checking emails? You deserve it. Don’t worry. Just set up ample time on your calendar to get caught up when you return.
Setting time to deal with your emails is really just setting yourself up altogether for success. You’ve got this. Give it a shot.
This was originally posted on my INC.com column.
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