Three ideas to improve your email experience

In this article, I am going to provide you with three email tips you can act on right now which will help you on your way to an empty inbox. Some of these tips may be counterintuitive or considered by some to downright blasphemy.  With that in mind, I warn you these suggestions will not be easy. But if you stick to your guns you’ll be setting yourself up for achieving more via email and the work that surrounds it.

Read on below and see if these suggestions ring true for you. Then try to apply them to your email inbox. Enjoy and good luck!

1. Touch each email once & do something with it

One of my favorite email tips is to “only touch it once”. In other words, deal with the email as soon as you read it. This might mean responding, seeking other information, filing the message away, whatever it takes to get it out of your inbox and off your immediate plate.

The point is every next time you see that email — second, third, fourth, fifth, or more times — you mentally have to process it again. This clogs up your “mental disk space” and leaves you unfocused. And guess what — it happens every time you open your inbox all day long, until that email is dealt with (if ever).

  • Action: Spend one email sitting only handling the emails one time. Choose to route them to your task list, send them right to your email archive, hit the delete button, or just do them right there and then.The first time you really try to do this, it will not be easy and likely will be time consuming, but when you can make it a habit it can become super efficient and freeing. As you mature, you can put your own systems and processes around the concept to make it easier.By starting to form this “touch it once” habit now, you’ll quickly see self-discipline in your inbox and dealing with the now can free up a ton of mental energy.

2. Turn off the notifications

We live in an instant gratification world where we are constantly connected and ever responding to requests. This is all the more reason to turn off the email notifications on our phones, computers, and other devices.

If you are in the middle of meaningful work and that notification appears, what is the first thing you do? You lose your focus and look at it. It could be your spouse with something about the kids, an important email from a client, or an advertisement for Old Navy. All of those do NOT have the same weight in your life. So why should they all notify — and distract you — equally?

You can afford to wait to read the email that just came in. Notifications are nice, but its return on investment in your life is a negative result. It is more of a distraction than a help (in most all cases).

  • Action: A quick Google search for your devices and a term like “disable email notifications” should allow you to quickly disable those pesky popups bubbles on all of your devices.
  • Bonus Credit: If you really “need” to get notified of emails from particular indviduals, some devices have the ability to setup selective notifications (i.e. VIP lists) to allow only them to appear — and leave Old Navy out of the fun. You might consider this as an option, or just do above to go cold turkey!

3. Do email at times you select and on your terms

Email is not an instant messages, chat or for that matter a phone call. Those are all perfectly good means of communications and should be in your mix, but email serves a specific purpose in that mix.

Email is, after all, modeled conceptually after old fashion snail mail. It is a way of communicating letters of sorts, albeit multimedia letters with links, images and all kinds of fun stuff. I propose you keep the “letter paradigm” in mind when replying to others.

However, one issue might be you probably have people emailing you and expecting a reply in minutes. It is likely time to retrain them in how email is going to work — for you to be productive.

  • Action: Choose, and stick to, 2-4 times a day you plan to sit down and “do email”. Maybe it is morning when you get to the office, lunch hour, and at 4PM before you head home for the day. You can even throw in a check around 9PM before bed. But that is it.This will:
    1. make you focus on doing work/life during the in-between times,
    2. train those emailing to you that you are not “open for business” at any waking hour, and…
    3. let you form proper replies during your “email work times” verse a quick chat like reply which feeds the vicious cycle. 

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Paul J. Meyer

Like stated, making email work for you will not be an easy slam dunk. Even so, forming email habits like those mentioned here will allow you to escape the daily grind of email let you make it work for you, not you work to wrangle it.

Try these ideas for a day, or two, or a week and you’ll see a marked effect in how you use you use your email.

Joshua McNary

Joshua McNary

As a Marketing Technology expert and founder/CEO of McNary Marketing & Design LLC, Joshua McNary meshes business strategy, technology, and corporate savvy with entrepreneurial passion to provide solutions to clients’ problems. After over a decade of working in non-profit and then the corporate world, Joshua acts on his knowledge about business, marketing, design, and web development to help business, start-ups, and organizations. In the last four years since McNary Marketing's founding, he and his team have done extensive work assisting businesses with their initiatives including developing proactive goal-oriented websites, designing and implementing various sales & marketing systems and integrations, and related business technology solutions. Joshua is also an entrepreneurial community and productivity strategy enthusiast which has help him better grow his efforts at McNary Marketing and help clients do the same. Learn more about and connect with Joshua at http://mcnarymarketing.com.

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