If you’ve read any of our other articles, or are a busy professional yourself, you know how time-consuming emails can be. It’s far too easy to get sucked into email thread after email thread, only to realize a large chunk of time has been wasted surfing your inbox. And nothing got done.
Then comes stress induced by email overload. If we’re not careful, that email overload can further lead us to decision paralysis – a state-of-being where we feel so inundated with tasks and have no idea where to begin we procrastinate, exacerbating the problem further. And still nothing has gotten done.
But it doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, the most difficult part is just getting started. Think back to a time when something seemed overwhelming, but once you finally got going, it wasn’t that bad. And you actually got something done.
Managing your inbox is the same.
Beyond pushing past your initial anxieties surrounding email, here are three additional tips that’ll help you learn how to feel less stressed by emails (as well as other obligations).
1. Have a Plan
First and foremost, set yourself up for success. There are tons of great tips and techniques for helping you organize and manage your inbox. But you need to decide which ones work for you.
For example, if you’re a visual learner, perhaps creating a list isn’t the best route for you. Instead you need a method that allows you to easily see what you need to do. As one example, color-coding that same list may be the adjustment you need to stay organized.
Other necessary considerations may be: are you someone who knows that you will be checking email first thing in the morning? Or are you someone who likes to list out what you need to do first? Do you receive dozens of emails per day? Or more like hundreds of emails? Are many of your emails solicitous emails? Or is every email from a critical stakeholder or client?
Knowing the answers to these questions and more will help you create a plan on how you will effectively and strategically manage your inbox.
Create a game plan that works for you, but make sure to stick with it…
2. Be Consistent
There is no point in having a plan, or understanding the questions above, if you aren’t going to do anything about it or you’re not going to adhere to it. Like most everything in life, consistency is key.
Say you wanted to learn a new language. How will you be successful if, for the third time in a week you said, “I’m going to skip this lesson”?
That’s why you need to give the same level of attention to your email strategy plan, and follow through on it. Every time. The more you do, the harder it’ll be for you to give in to temptation and not follow the guide you created for yourself.
Determining who your highest priority collaborators are. Mitigating the volume of emails when possible. Understanding what your habits are around your email workflows. These are all essential to understanding what your plan is and how to be consistent with it.
It’s recommended to give yourself at least a week or two to adjust to the new habit since you’re adjusting to something you’re not used to. However, if after a few weeks you find some or all of your plan isn’t working, then change it! If you’re still not finding success, incorporate a different technique, and repeat until you find your groove.
3. Limit Distractions
Bing! A notification pops up for social media, or another email, or a text message. Pop! A great pop-up box appears in the bottom right corner of your screen. Ping! An instant message alert has come through. Buzz! Your cell phone is vibrating on your desk. Though it may seem harmless, each of these notifications shift your focus away from completing what you need to get done. Suddenly you find yourself down a social media rabbit hole, or answering a bunch of low priority emails, or typing “water cooler gossip” into Teams. Before you know it, thirty minutes have passed.
Each time this happens, checking your email, which usually only takes fifteen to twenty minutes, is going to be another fifteen to twenty minutes (on top of the thirty spent on social media), if not longer, as you attempt to refocus and get your mindset back into the flow of things.
Better to be safe than sorry: turn notifications off. If it’s important they’ll call. If it’s really important they’ll leave a message, and that notification will still be there.
So there you have it!
- Create a plan
- Be consistent (and stick with that plan, but adjust if it isn’t working)
- Limit distractions
These three simple techniques will all but ensure you’ll feel less stressed when it comes to emails and inbox management.
But this is just scratching the tip of the iceberg. There is an entire system that’ll teach you exactly how you can be in control of your inbox. This complimentary 45-minute webinar will help you learn how to feel in control of your inbox, be more responsive to important collaborators, and reduce your anxiety and stress. ARTT™ demonstrates time-saving techniques within Outlook primarily; however, the concept is platform-agnostic. It is about teaching your human habits connected to technology (whether Outlook, Gmail, or AOL Mail…ok, nobody uses AOL Mail anymore, right?).
Register for your favorite date today and I look forward to having you at the program.