Taming The Email Monster Revisited
It has been almost two years since I wrote the blog post “Tame the Email Monster With These 3 Easy Tips” so I thought it time to come back around and add a few more I have learned.
Let it Go... Email is Not Your Job
Unless you work in the Gmail division of Google, email is not your job. It is just a tool. You don’t “do” email any more than you “do” the phone or fax. It is just a way to communicate. But unlike most other ways of communication it never stops. Imagine if the mailman came every five minutes, or if you had to answer a call every ten minutes, awake, asleep, whenever. Twenty-four-seven. You have no control over who sends you email, when they send, how much they send and what they ask of you when they do. It is a zero sum game in that you cannot win but you can easily lose. Nobody has been promoted for being good at email but people get fired for being bad at it. Take it seriously, put effort into and it and always be striving to be better at email.
Process to Zero but Don’t Shuffle The Deck
You should go through your email, one at a time with the goal to only deal with eighty percent of your email once and only once. Surgically attack each email and ask the following questions. What is it? Who is it to? Am I BCC'd or CC'd? Is it actionable? Can I delete it? Is it reference material for later?
After you have figured out what it is, do the unthinkable. Don't move it, folder it or do anything else. Modern email search and smart folders have killed any need to folder things. Is it actionable and can be handled in less than two minutes, do it. If it is actionable and will take more than two minutes, it will require some thought or some doing, flag it. Know the key command and flag it for a time to come back to and keep processing. Learn where the delete key is and use it with wild abandon. Unsubscribe from all the lists and marketing spam. Once you have processed to zero get back to work or if you have the time go back and look at your flagged email view to start the doing. Process those, unflagging when they are done.
Fast & Furious
Until dictation gets a lot better the main thing slowing you down in email is between the ends of your arms and the keys on your keyboard. You should be able to type with a corrected Word Per Minute of over 55. That is a minimum. Go take a test and if you can't do over 55 WPM in a sustained test, you should improve that skill. It is like being a race car driver who can only go 45 miles an hour on the track or a construction worker who can only put in one nail every fifteen minutes. If you are a knowledge worker who communicates 90% of the time through the keyboard, the faster you can type the better you are at your job. Get yourself a copy of Mavis Beacon and do 15 minutes every 10 days. You will get better.
You should also know every key command. You shouldn't have to touch your mouse at all to do email. From switching inboxes, to deleting to replying, to forwarding, if you don't know the key command learn it and if doesn't exist build it. No excuses.
If you are looking for more email tips and tricks be sure to check out my other blog post titled Avoiding Email Bankruptcy with Mail.app Smart Folders & Flags. Feel free to drop me your hints and tips on email on Twitter @JasonMAtwood