Everyone is looking for an easy way to manage their email which now is the biggest drain on everyones time.
In 2007 employees of Google gathered to hear Merlin Mann a rising star in the personal productivity movement. He explained his system called”Inbox Zero”, it was incredibly straightforward. People get into bad habits with email and check them constantly and get anxious about what they are saying and then do little or no action. They pile up as does the stress levels. Mann’s concept was simple, everytime you visit your in-box you should process it to zero. Decide what action each message requires – a reply, an entry on your to-do list, or just trash it. Then close your in-box and get on with living.
In-box Zero spawned countless blogs along with videos of people proudly sharing their empty in-boxes.
The irony was the Inbox Zero did not bring calm in fact it brought more anxiety. Some interpreted Inbox Zero that every email needed a reply which meant more time in their in-box. Others got obsessive on the whole empty concept so ended up checking more than before. The super efficiency also ironically meant by processing more emails you received more emails.
Two years after his Google talk Mann signed a contract for a book on InBox Zero. The book missed its publication date, then after a further two years Mann announced he was cancelling the project. He realised he was missing morning after morning with his three year old daughter to please a book editor. Mann said “If you are just using efficiency to jam more and more stuff into your day…well, how would you ever know that that’s working?”
There is no easy way and the whole idea of personal productivity means that it is personal to you. Systems need to be tweaked and adapted to work for you. Suggested ideas:-
- No looking at emails after 6.00pm
- Book an appointment with your email
- Ring fence the time you spend on the email
- Create 3 subfolders and put a # before the title so they stay at the top
- Waiting for
- Read review
- No looking at email before 9.00am
- Take the flag off so that emails don’t interupt you
We need to lead emails and not them lead us, create rituals that fit in with your life and relax that you don’t have to know everything all the time. Responding too soon might not be the best response.
My husband on Friday night replied to an email which is unusual as the phone normally stays on the hall table until Monday. The client responded by calling him on Saturday morning. The intrusion into the weekend was a surprise, however only as a result of his own actions.
The final word should be Mann’s on Inbox Zero and it is the most profound “Email is not a technical problem. It’s a people problem. And you can’t fix people”.