Everybody has his limit in handling emails. For one 10 per day are too much, another handles 150 without any problems. But sooner or later, everybody of us have to declare: it’s too much.
I have had a time in my life in which I have had to handle 750 mails per day in average. Nobody can say that this is possible to do. But that was the time I started a very strict and consequent filtering and categorization. However it still was too much. The combination of importance and urgency was back-breaking.
In the first part of this episode I will show you some of the most successful approaches how to handle the flood of emails daily arriving in your inbox. There are different concepts, sometimes even contradicting systems, but give them a try and find the most acceptable way for you.
But if you’re in the same situation as I was, even the most sophisticated approaches to handle the flood, weren’t succeeding, then you might be interested in the 2nd part of this episode.
This summer I stumbled over the book of Rory Vaden | Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time. Rory was welcome as guest in the Art of Charm Podcast
His book was an eye-opener. I do not agree with everything Rory has written, however the major part, the introduction of a 3rd dimension, was essential. If importance and urgency are the first two dimensions, significance becomes the 3rd dimension.
Essential Answers Provided In This Episode For:
Why you cannot manage time?
You only can pass through time. Time simply goes on. It cannot be managed. The only thing that can be managed is you. Managing yourself is the only way you can change something significant in your email handling.
What’s the difference between importance and urgency?
Importance means How much does this matter?. Urgency means How soon does this matter? Both are regularly orthogonal in its use. There could be made a matrix of importance to urgency relations. Further details could be find in this episode.
How many emails are too many for you?
That’s highly individual. For one 20 mails per day are already too many. Another is happy to handle 200 without any problems. However there is a limit for everybody. And sooner or later you will hit this limit. Everybody faces the same problem of too many emails sooner or later. Listen to this episode to find out my new way how to handle emails more appropriately.
What was my previous way of handling mails?
I have selected some of the most interesting and helpful hints from all over the place. Here are my preferrred action:
- Categorize by name Specific sender names are highlighted that I can detect them instantly and react immediately.
- Filter every subscription into a separate folder and mark as read immediately This action removes me from regular bulk mails polluting my inbox. Additionally it prevents me from continously looking into such folders due to new emails arriving.
- Highlight mails written exclusively to me I am the only recipient in the To-field. Than it might be worth to be read. Conflicts with the first action.
- Color different groups of senders Provides a simple visual way to detect specific persons or specific threads which I should read or avoid.
- Do not hesitate to subgroup existing groups or folders If the folder content gets too big, split it into separate subfolders.
- Indexing and searching is essential to find whatever you’re looking for.
How’s my personal new way to handle emails?
It’s not only the way how I handle emails, but how I handle all of my tasks. Taking significance into additional account, I now follow some very simple rules:
- Stop long emails. Every email longer than 5 sentences regularly needs more clarification and discussion. It’s better to pick up the phone or chat.
- Stop sharing my opinion. Especially if it is unwanted. That’s regularly a waste of effort and not necessary.
- Stop confronting emails. E-Mails are horribly in transporting your real tone, understanding and intention. It’s that easy to misunderstand them. The time and effort you need to repair the damage and get back control of your relationship costs you more than taking up the issue in person.
- Taking significance into account. I do no longer only take importance and urgency into account when I decide about handling my emails. Significance – how long does something matter – has become an essential part of my understanding. It biases my decision whether and when to handle and email or not quite significantly.
How to beat the tyranny of importance and urgency?
Taking importance and urgency into account let you get stuck in a horrible life movie. You are completely remote driven by the different requests from the outside. Change that to a third dimension and take significance into account. This will limit the impact of importance and urgency significantly.
Selected Links and Resources From This Episode
- Rory Vaden | Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time
- Rory Vaden in the Art of Charm Podcast presented in the Art of Charm Podcast
- John Burns and “Offline Email Keeps Me Focused”
- 8 tips for getting to inbox zero — and staying there
- Inbox Zero action-based email