“Honey, can’t you just put down your phone and talk to me?”
Sound familiar? If you’re that guy (or girl) who can’t seem to stop hurting your honey’s feelings by replying to work emails during a romantic dinner, you know that something needs to change. Put on your big-kid pants & follow these steps to tackle email once and for all.
1. Stop letting it pile up. This is the number one deadly sin of email: doing nothing. When you go through your inbox, make it your goal to not let it just stay there. If you can (or need to) act on it immediately, do it. If it’s information you can read quickly or spammy marketing email, either archive it or delete it, depending on if you’ll possibly need it in the future. Otherwise, move it to an appropriate folder, which leads us to step #2:
2. Use the power of folders & your calendar. Most email programs like Outlook or Gmail allow you to create folders for your email. Some people go a little crazy and create too many folders, but they’re best used when you only have a few. Here’s what’s worked for me:
- Follow Up ASAP — Check this folder at the end of every day to see what things you need to address immediately or prioritize first thing the next day.
- Follow Up Someday—This is where the power of your calendar works its magic. File things in this folder that need a response eventually, but aren’t urgent and can wait a few weeks. Then, set a recurring 30-minute calendar invite (with yourself) on the first Monday every month to go through this folder.
- Notifications—This is where notifications from sites like Basecamp, Slack, Google Docs, etc. should automatically go. You can set up a rule in Outlook or Gmail that files these automatically.
- Archive — This one’s pretty self-explanatory. This is the ultimate destination for most email. After it’s gone through one of the folders above, or if you don’t need to take action on it from your inbox, file it here. Put EVERYTHING in one archive folder; the power of search on both Gmail and Outlook is great enough that there’s no reason to have the hassle of multiple archive folders.
3. Turn off your mobile notifications. Wait, you can do that? Yes, you can do that. The reality is that you don’t need to be notified of every single email you get. If it’s an emergency, calling or texting are much more efficient. If you can’t quite bring yourself to completely turn off notifications, try using the “Do Not Disturb” function during date night.
If you start putting these tips into practice, you’ll be on your way to glorious Inbox Zero in no time—all the praise hand emojis! Your sanity (and your honey bun) will thank you.