When was the last time you had an empty e‑mail inbox? Do you remember how it felt???
Many of us have a lot of e‑mails in our inboxes and believe it or not, but that in itself results in that it takes longer before we read and handle the new mails that arrive.??
My inbox is usually empty most of the day. One would think that it’s because I don’t receive many e‑mails, but that’s not the case. I probably receive a fairly standard amount of e‑mails every day.
?The thing is though, that I several times a day read, make decisions on and save (or throw away) the e‑mails I’ve received, until my inbox once again is empty.
The amount of saved e‑mails makes a difference
The last few weeks have been very intense for me and often when I have arrived to the office after a few hours of absence, my inbox has announced “41 unread e‑mails”, or something like it.?? It’s interesting to see how significantly the amount of e‑mails in my inbox affects my behavior.?? When I then sit down to check my e‑mail, I begin to skim through the list, from top to bottom. I read parts of one email, and then move on to the next one, without really deciding what the mail means to me.
I jump up and down the list, read and scroll, but actually get nothing done. It feels overwhelming to start dealing with the e‑mails (since there are many more than usual) and actually do something about them, so I just fiddle around and flip through them.??
For me, and maybe for you as well, a large amount of mail in the inbox obviously leads to that I tend to work slower with the e‑mails I’ve got.?? Sure, I eventually and finally pull myself together and work through the entire contents of the inbox so that no e‑mails are left and the inbox is empty again. A nice feeling of freedom, simplicity and, even a feeling of pleasant emptiness arises.
Get down to zero every day
Attend to all your e‑mails in your inbox regularly so that you’ve got an inbox so empty it echoes a few times during the day.?? If you are like me, it’s then easier to keep your inbox empty, and as a plus you’ll respond to your emails quicker and you’ll proceed faster with the cases you work with in your everyday life.
Try it yourself
Sure, it’s easy to say when you only have a few e‑mails in your inbox to begin with, but for those who have 3 766 email saved (out of which 41 are unread), what I’m saying may seem a bit officious.?? So, today I am offering you the opportunity to experience what it’s like to have an echoing inbox. Decide to work with an empty inbox for an afternoon, as if it were completely normal to you.
- In your inbox, create a new folder and name it “Temporary”.
- Move all e‑mails in your inbox to the “Temporary”-folder.
- Decide when you’re going to check your e‑mail the next time; the next whole hour, now, in five minutes or later, after lunch, or something like that.
- When new e‑mails have arrived, open the first one.
- Read the e‑mail.
- Decide if it means that you need to do something. If so, put the task on your to-do-list, or carry it out immediately.
- Also decide whether you’re going to save this email, since you might need it someday, though you do not know when. If that’s the case, store the mail with the other digital documents in your folder structure that is about the same thing, same client, same project, or same area.
- Then delete this e‑mail from the inbox.
- Continue doing this until your inbox is once again empty.
- Take a minute to reflect upon how you experienced this. Was it easy to deal with all the e‑mails? Was it different from before, when the inbox was packed?
- Continue like this for the remainder of the day.
- At the end of the day, take another moment for reflection. How does it feel now? Do you want to go back to how it was before?
- Either, return all mails you put in “Temporary” back into your inbox…
- Or, leave it as it is and spend 20 minutes a day to deal with as many emails as you have time for from the “Temporary”-folder until this folder is empty as well, after which you can delete the folder.
How did it work out for you?
Did you try starting with an empty inbox for an afternoon?
Leave a comment if you want to and tell me what difference it made for you.
P S For further ideas regarding the empty inbox, watch Merlin Mann’s talk “Inbox Zero”.