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Is Your In-Box Running Your Life?


Do you ever wonder if you can actually have zero emails in your in-box?

I do know some people who have empty inboxes. I will admit I never have. I fully expect my inbox, virtual and not virtual, to be full when I die.

If you are trying to move in the direction of a less full inbox, here are eight tips, plus a bonus reflection, that might just help.

Send less email

Doesn’t that seem obvious? If you send less, you will get less.

Consider whether you need to start an email chain or if a simple phone call might answer your questions.

Acknowledge receipt of the email

If you acknowledge receipt of the email, it lets the sender of the hook for following up.

I do this with my clients when they send in prep sheets before a coaching call. It’s a quick “Got it. Talk with you later.”

Indicate if a reply is not needed

If you do not expect a reply, say so in your email.

I got one such email recently with NNTR, online code for No Need to Reply. It was great. I just read and deleted.


If you get marketing emails that you no longer read, consider getting off the mailing list.

Use rules or separate accounts

Use the “rules” in your email program to route emails from specific senders to separate folders so they don’t clutter your inbox.

Schedule time to look at them. When you do that consider whether you need to see them at all and consider unsubscribing.

In lieu of creating rules for incoming emails, you might consider setting up a separate g-mail account for list-serve emails or newsletters that you sign up for. That way, you have to make an effort to go read the items. You might find you do not need so many of them.

Don’t check email all day long

It’s easy to get caught up with the email ping. You want to see what is coming in.

First, turn off the notifications so you aren’t distracted by the sound.

Then, set a routine for handling your emails. If you allow time at the beginning of the day, mid-day, and the end of the day and stick to it, you will do a better job at not letting the email get out of control.

I am not suggesting you do it three times a day; I am suggesting you create a system and stick with it.

Follow the 2-minute rule

David Allen of Getting Things Done fame suggests that if it will take less than two minutes to handle the email, do it now, even if it is not a high priority. (Remember you are setting aside time to do emails; you are not checking all day long.) He has lots of other good ideas for productivity in his book.

Use a spam filter

Get or use a spam filter.

I’ve used SpamSieve for years, and I can’t believe what a difference it has made. Now the spam heads right to the junk folder. I think it works better than the filter that came with my email program. Now, I just wish it worked on my iPhone!

As I noted above, your inbox will not be empty when you die. I don’t even think that needs to be your — or my — goal. I would rather not worry about it.

Think of what the really important things are in your life. You cannot do it all, and sometimes, the masses of emails that you receive can move you into that thought pattern. Email arrives, it must be important, you must deal with it. You let someone else set your agenda. And, then you check it off the to-do list.

Take some time to think about who and what matters in your life. Think about putting them on the to-do list. I think you will be a lot happier, having enjoyed the journey rather than checking things off the list. Regardless, when you die, the inbox won’t be empty.

It’s your turn

What do you do to keep your inbox under control and thereby save yourself time? Have you found a way that you would like to share with us?

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