Sometime last year, I embarked on mission Inbox Zero. I have about 15 email accounts for different purposes. Personal account, subscription account, work accounts, community accounts etc. On average I get about 50 to 80 emails a day. There are days when the emails I receive are overwhelming. If I do not set down rules for the way I handle my inbox, I am easily snowed under the mountain of emails. Important emails get lost or neglected and somewhere along the way, something goes wrong. After having this happen about 10 times including once where I had to make a loss of a couple of hundred dollars, I decided enough was enough and I really needed a better strategy.
Enter the Eisenhower Box.
While researching best productivity methods, I read about the 34th American president being very efficient at time management. In fact, he was known for getting everything done when it needed to be done. The basic idea of the Eisenhower Box is to run through the tasks you want to do and put it in 1 of 4 boxes. For me, I basically categorised my emails into 1 of the 4 categories.
1) Important and Urgent – If it can be done within 3 minutes, I do it immediately. If not, I leave it in my inbox until the end of my inbox clearing session and go back to it.
2) Important, but not Urgent – I decide when I will have time to do it and stick that email into Todoist with a due date. This email then gets filed away, to be brought back only when its needed.
3) Not Important but Urgent – I normally forward this email to someone else. If it is family related, it goes to Irene for her to make a decision or to do. If it is related to work, I ask one of my coworkers to take the lead on it.
4) Not Important and not Urgent – This email basically gets deleted.
Once I get through all my emails, I am generally left with 1 or 2 emails that will require a bit more than 3 minutes to handle. This allows me to focus my energy on getting those tasks done. The best part of this system is that I am no longer a slave to my emails. Instead of reacting to my emails, I schedule time every morning to check my emails and work through the list. Most days, I can finish filing and have Inbox Zero in about an hour or less.
Starting last week, I have disabled email notifications on my phone. I am now taking the next step in email management by only checking my emails 2 or 3 times a day. While in the past I used to check it every chance I got, I have decided to use this time for reading. So instead of checking my Gmail app every few minutes when the notification comes up on my screen, I am opening my Kindle app to read whenever I have a few minutes to spare. Hopefully this will allow me to soak up more knowledge instead of wasting time reacting to emails.
Is email taking up more of your time than it should? How are you handling it?
P/S: I have implemented Todoist to handle my entire task list. It is available both for desktop and mobile, making it an easy tool to manage all the different aspects of my life. Whenever I have something I need to do, I add it to the list so I can keep track of it. Todoist emails me a list of my tasks each morning so I have an overview of what are the things I need to get through in the day. I also always have it open when I am at my computer and it sits on the homepage of my phone so I can see what are my tasks for the day. I will share in a later post on how to make full use of Todoist to be more productive.