4 tips for gaining control over your email

4 min read

email overload

Single-tasking is the new multitasking.

A few years ago, blog land was overflowing with multitasking hacks. It was the mantra of the day. Add-ons, integrations, widgets, and dashboard tricks were all supposed to give you the tools to do more at once.

Like, if everything was a shampoo and conditioner in one.

If you’re a hardcore multi-tasker, take cover, because that pendulum is swinging back the other way. Research is showing that we’re not nearly as good at multitasking as we think. (We actually kinda stink at it.)

So, today we’re going to start rebooting our attention spans.

4 Ways to re-claim your inbox and your sanity

1. Unsubscribe from Unwanted Email

Our industry is ripe with spam. You know it, I know it, they know it, yet is persists like that nagging itch underneath a surgical cast during a July heat wave. That’s why Step 1 is to get off of distro lists.

As someone annoyed by unsolicited email, I’d love to tell you to mark all of that unwanted email as spam, but as a marketer, I’d rather you didn’t. Instead, spend a week opening every piece of of your unwanted mail and unsubscribing via the unsubscribe link (and, if they don’t have an unsubscribe link, you have my blessing to hit that spam button extra hard.) If you feel like you’re unsubscribing from the same emails over and over (like if you go to a trade show and get automatically signed up for email you didn’t want), try filtering it out in Step 2.

2. Filter & Label

Merlin Mann pioneered something called Inbox Zero. The philosophy behind it isn’t necessarily a literal number, but I like to think of it in those terms.

Set-up automatic filters to pre-sort as much of your email as possible. The first reason to implement this is to take care of email lists that you can’t seem to shake off. Add a filter to automatically trash them. The second reason to implement this is to help categorize your email before you look it over. If your email is automatically getting sorted and flagged for you, it will save you time and mental bandwidth as you’re processing it.

3. Check & Chunk

Email has become a beacon that we all return to time and time again through the day.

Do you know how many times you check your email in a day? Really, do you? I bet it’s a lot more than you think.

Try this simple test for one day. Don’t leave your Gmail open in a browser tab. Don’t leave your Outlook minimized on your task bar. Instead, completely open and close your email client every time you want to check it.  Now, tell my how many times a day you check your email. Is it more than you thought?  It was for me.

Rather than constantly jumping to and from your email, process it at pre-defined times. How often those times occur will depend on your job function. Those times I am in my email, I follow the GTD 2-minute rule: if it can be done in less than two minutes do it right then. If it takes longer, put it into your task flow.

4. Manage your To-Do’s Elsewhere

Get your tasks out of email. Seriously.

Keeping your tasks in your email client means that you’re constantly checking your email which means you’re constantly getting distracted. Stop it. Get your tasks somewhere else.

You can go old-school and keep a written task-list. You can go new-school and use online task managers like Toodledo, TeuxDeux, or Wunderlist. You can also create a mash-up that works for you. For example, you can move all of your quote requests directly into your promotional products software then set a corresponding deadline in your calendar app. Or you can look at a snapshot of your open estimates and write down the 3 most important follow-ups that need to be done each day.

You can figure out what works best for you, just promise me you’ll cut the cord between tasks and email.

I know that switching from task to task is a part of life. Orders never mess up on days that you have oodles of time set aside to troubleshoot. They fall apart on days that you’re juggling umpteen other important things. So, cut down on your multitasking to save your brain capacity for where it’s truly needed.

commonsku is a web-based business management platform powering the promotional products industry. Find out more at commonsku.com or stop by to say hi on twitter or facebook.