5 Ways to Move Your Inbox From Distraction to Production
As of 2020, 300.4 billion emails were sent and received every single day. If you’re trying to put your head down and focus on the most important task at hand in any given workday, fighting the battle of the inbox is a crucial step on the path toward deep work. With a chunk of those billions of emails landing in your inbox daily, wrangling them into submission is non-negotiable.
The ding of an email landing in your inbox does not necessitate an immediate right to your attention. By understanding your relationship to email and identifying how it can serve your work, not weigh it down, you can reclaim your time, energy and attention.
Here are five ways to make the most of your inbox while minimising distraction.
- Set intentional times to check your email throughout the day. Instead of leaving your inbox open all day, or checking it every time something lands, define the parameters around when emails can access your attention. If you need to receive time-sensitive emails outside of these allocated windows, inbox rules can automate the receipt of these while still protecting your overall focus. Changing the way you receive notifications will also help to limit the frequency that your attention is thrust elsewhere, so make sure your notifications align with your intentional windows of email engagement.
- Understand your options for responding to an email. Workplace productivity coach Marsha Egan recommends the four D’s – do, delete, delegate or defer. This model removes the option to double-handle more than is required, with emails being repetitively marked as unread. Consider how inbox folders can help to streamline your workflows, separating conversations out by priority or project as is most useful to your needs.
- Re-shape your relationship with your inbox. Instead of thinking of your email as a to-do list, consider it a delivery mechanism. Use a task-managing app or project management software to organise your work priorities, not the unread status of a mixture of work, personal and marketing emails. This helps to keep you accountable to deadlines and priorities, as the creation of them within your task-management software requires intentional thought and action.
- Make the most of the unsubscribe button. How often are you pausing to read marketing messages that are entirely unrelated to the task at hand? Treat your email address like a valuable piece of data. Unsubscribe from newsletters that don’t contribute direct and relevant value to your day.
- Shape your team’s communication culture. If email is the place where all project updates, housekeeping notices, questions and collaborations take place within your team, it’ll be much more difficult to tighten up the use of your inbox. Consider how communication tools like Slack can serve a defined purpose in integrating company communications, and create company policies that clearly define how email is to be used internally, and why.
Our relationship to email can be symptomatic of our overall relationship to work and to the boundaries necessary for protecting our attention. By examining whether or not your inbox serves you, or you serve your inbox, you can regain valuable time, energy and capacity each day.
Red Leaf’s Tracking Success Virtual Adventure is built on the premise that the Hunter-Gatherer cultures of old had limited energy and resources and maximising both was a question of life and death. The Tracking Success Roadmap draws on lessons we can learn from expert wildlife trackers.
For a sneak peek into why the Roadmap is important click here to access a video shot on location in the Kalahari desert recently.
And for a short video that introduces Tracking Success, take a quick look here.