We live in a world communication overload with everything funnelling through our electronic devices. Voicemail, email, text messages, @ replies, Facebook messages, Twitter direct messages, blog comments…the list seems to never end. Between the responding to texts, listening to voicemail messages, and engaging in social media, it’s no wonder our inboxes are out of control.
What was once the center of our life control system is now the center of the massive chaos system, an information bottle neck that renders email as a form of communication virtually useless. Theatre tickets? In your inbox waiting for the date. New soccer schedule? Sent as an attachment that you have yet to input into your calendar. Task list from your business partner? Somewhere waaaaaaaaaaay down the page waiting for you to remember to read it.
It’s no wonder you missed that urgent request for proposal that got lost in the inbox shuffle. It was somewhere between the fifty thousand newsletters you thought you had time to read and the stuff that is just hanging out there for you to find the time to deal with. All of it marked unread, adding to the overwhelming messages number with every download.
How to Take Back Your Inbox and Create a Communication Hub
#1: Never EVER Use Your Inbox as Storage — Those theater ticket, the soccer schedule, that task list? All of those messages need homes out of your inbox. Download your theater tickets into a file in DropBox so you can pull it up on the day, get that soccer schedule printed and posted on the fridge or into your calendar ASAP and drag the entire email from your partner into a task.
#2: Clear Your Communication Hub Daily — The hundreds (or thousands) of email newsletters junking up your inbox? Yeah…those need to go. Get in the habit of clearing out your inbox (go for ZERO Inbox) at the end of every day, even if that means wrapping up your work block a little early to clear out the clutter. Chances are once you get started, you will quickly realize what you need to unsubscribe from to maintain a clear inbox.
#3: File to Find Later — Someone sent you an idea that you aren’t quite ready to implement? Typically stuff like that sits in our inbox until we are ready to deal with it (or until it has sat there so long it becomes irrelevant). That stuff needs a file all of its own. Toss new connections into a Networking folder, keep blog submissions into a Submissions folder and store clever ideas to implement later in your BIG Ideas file.
#4: Use the Built-in Mail Management Tools — Know you want to find the information in a message at a later date? Give it its own color coded flag so you can switch to a Sort By Flag view to find it quickly. If you use a Mac Mail, you can designate different colors for different types of information so you can scan down flagged items quickly to find what you are looking for.
#5: Shortcut Scheduling — Trying to coordinate a group for a meeting or vote a decision? Don’t clutter up your inbox with a zillion back and forth messages that you will have to sort through later! Send out a Doodle poll to get to an answer quickly. It’s ideal for coordinating group meetings, scheduling one-on-one meetings or organizing group votes.
#6: Designate A and B Inboxes — Not ready to give up newsletters altogether? Set up a separate email address for all that junk mail you want (or have) to subscribe to like newsletters, loyalty programs and anything else you think will potentially clutter up your inbox. The key is then spending the majority of your time in the inbox you designate for important communication.
#7: Acknowledge What You Need to Junk — That request you have been letting sit there in your inbox because you don’t actually want to deal with it? Junk it. All that stuff that we put off dealing with because we don’t want to admit (to ourselves or others) that we just don’t want to do it not only clutters up your inbox, but your mental space as well. Admit it and move on.
How do you keep your inbox under control? Share your tips in the comments below!