Does this sound familiar? You’ve poured a cup of coffee and sat down to start your workday when suddenly it hits you…You have no idea where to start. You think “here we go again” and react to the flurry of emails that have arrived in your dreaded inbox.
Sure, there’s meetings to attend and reports to analyze or write, but with so many emails, it is difficult to recall what needs to get done first. Do you remember the new time that the morning meeting was changed to? Wasn’t there something you promised to your boss first thing today? Or where is the agenda that was sent yesterday afternoon? You barely have time to focus, let alone sift through your 100+ unread emails to find it.
According to Harvard Business Review, “the average professional spends 28% of their workday reading and answering email…” Twenty-eight percent! Add time searching for specific emails, getting organized, figuring out what to do first, actually getting some work done, and then you suddenly realize it’s 5:00.
Now ask yourself, “what did you accomplish today?”
Are you starting to sweat?
Fear not! Some simple, straightforward practices will help you achieve the penultimate “Inbox Zen” while simultaneously keeping you more organized than ever before.
But it all starts with not using your email as your to-do list.
Five Ways to Stop Letting Email Act As Your To-Do List
- Change Your Mindset
Humans are creatures of habit. Once we find something that works for us, we stick with it. The longer we reinforce that habit, the harder it is to break. So start now, and in no time you’ll be impressed with how easy it is to use alternatives to email for your to-do list.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”Lao Tzu
- Use the Appropriate Tools
Email isn’t meant to be a to-do list. It’s meant to be a communication tool. Therefore, use it for that specific purpose. That doesn’t mean you can’t take information from your email and add it to your to-do list, but pull data out of your inbox and keep it organized separately from your daily communication. It’ll make your life a lot easier.
- Remind Yourself What’s At Stake
Relying on your inbox to organize your action items accurately is definitely not best practice. After all, emails do not arrive in the exact order of priority and deadlines. There’s a lot at stake when it comes to relying on an unorganized inbox including missed deadlines, poor rapport with clients, and feeling a constant state of overwhelm.
- Don’t Forget, You Matter Too
It’s not just your clients and colleagues you need to consider when managing your inbox and to-do list. Your mental health and your work-life balance should also be motivation to change your habits. If you’re stressed, constantly playing catch-up, or unable to find the things you’re looking for, your mental health will suffer.
Keep yourself organized the right way and take away unnecessary burdens so you can focus on being the best at what you do.
- Alternative Strategies for your To-Do List
Are you a sticky notes type of person? Go for it! Post them wherever you’ll see them, and cross off items when you’re done. Plus, nothing feels better than balling up that little sheet of paper and tossing it into The Wastebasket of Accomplishment. Ideally, however, if you aren’t able to complete what is on a sticky note within a day or two, then consider transferring that task to your bigger to-do List.
Prefer to write things down in one place? That’s what planners, pocket calendars, or (my favorite) tickler systems are for! You can always go back and add things, or reference something later.
Plus, you get the ultimate decision for prioritization, not whoever emailed you most recently!
If you’re ready to become a master of your email so that it serves you the way you need it to, sign up for a free webinar to learn more about the ARTT™ Email Productivity course. I will personally introduce a new way of thinking about email, show you step-by-step how to conquer your inbox, and build a routine that causes less stress and allows you to get more done each day.