Chained to the Computer

After years of digital coaching I have realized that most people stink at email. Here are the two people I most often encounter:

Person A: This person spends hours checking email each week sending and receiving dozens of emails every day. Yet, Person A seems to be always behind in email regardless of how much time he or she invests in it. If you work a white collar job you probably can relate to Person A.

Person B: Person B doesn’t care much about email and so he never checks it. You never know if this person gets your emails or not because he rarely responds and when he does it’s days later. If you go to UMHB you are probably like Person B.

So how do you stay on top of you email without it consuming your life?

The following video has changed my life when it comes to email. I now spend half the time doing email and I am always able to leave my inbox empty. How do I do it? I follow Merlin Man’s advice.

I had a folder for each activity and a folder for each person who sent me a lot of email. The problem of this system was that it was inefficient. Instead of having one inbox I had a dozen. Now all important mail comes to one place from which I send it to one of the following 6 folders/labels.

  1. Encouragement – These are nice emails people have sent me. I don’t use this folder much (it only has 7 emails right now) but it is nice to set aside encouragement for a rainy day.
  2. Need Action – These are my action related emails. If you email me and ask me to do something it will end up in this folder before I do it.
  3. Need Read – These are emails I need to read when I get a chance
  4. Need Reply – These are emails I need to reply to.
  5. Reference – These are emails I will need later. This folder is mostly full of book related emails I need to keep track of.
  6. Unimportant – I have setup so that anything unimportant (facebook etc) goes to this folder. This is my only folder that has mail rules related to it.

Most emails I scan and then archive. Only a few make it to one of these folders. Gmail lets me search through my archive which is helpful in finding an email I need when I need it. I don’t need to file school email in a school folder. I just search for the exact email I need and it comes up.
Inbox Zero by Merlin Man

In this video Merlin Mann, productivity guru and creator of the popular 43 folders website, shares his secret to keeping his email inbox at zero. I know its an hour long… But if you invest an hour into learning how to “do” email more efficiantly it will come back to you many times over.Does your inbox overwhelm you? Leave a comment and tell me what do you think.