Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Inbox Zero!


This is one of a series of posts about time management.

If I achieve just one thing with these posts, I hope that it will be to get some control over my email inbox. I see this as a battle and since I started in this job, my inbox has consistently had the upper hand. In my defence, I think the organisational culture does lean towards heavy email use. Especially compared to other places that I've worked that have been more reliant on voice or instant messaging.

It's reached a point where tackling the inbox is a constant background activity - something that I think contributes to stress. If you're viewing every email as it comes in it becomes distracting to the point that you can't really concentrate on other things.

Somebody I met recently only checks their email once a day. They have the out-of-office on permanently with a message to the effect that they only check their email once a day (it also gives their phone number in case you need to contact them urgently). I did consider this as an alternative to having Outlook open in the background all day. However, this wouldn't work for me as I need to have my Outlook calendar open to tell me where I need to be (I really would be lost without this). Also many of the tasks that I do during the day require me to refer to information sent in emails.

So, long story short, here are a few rules I'm going to try for the week to see if I can cut down on the constant interruption of email.

1) I'm only going to try and only respond to email twice a day (morning and evening).
2) I'm going to turn off the "new email" alert to try and reduce the urge to read each email as it comes in.
3) During spells when I'm responding to emails, those that only require an easy response get done straight away then deleted.
4) Emails that require me to do some work get scheduled into my calendar and deleted from my inbox.
5) Emails for information get filed out of the inbox straight away.
6) Everything else gets deleted.

That's it for now. The aim is Inbox Zero by the end of the week I wonder if I'll get there?

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