As someone who makes their living off the Internet, I get a lot of email every day and some days it’s very difficult to keep up. While I’ve never gotten to the point of declaring email bankruptcy, there are times when I’ve forgotten about emails because they’ve fallen off the page in Gmail. Lately, I’ve been trying to be better about it and part of that involves learning from others. Email management is a popular topic online and fortunately there are plenty of resources.
One such strategy that I am liking alot is one created by Jason Clarke called Inbox 0.5 . It was inspired by Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero  and the idea is actually quite simple – knock out half the unread/TBD emails in your inbox each day. You don’t have to deal with all of them, just half. If you have 700 emails, get it down to 350 before the day ends. While you will still receive email throughout the day, the goal is to get to 350. When you return the next day, that number may have crept up to 400 overnight. Get it to 200 before you leave. Repeat…
This is an effective strategy because you don’t end up feeling like you have to read and respond to them all.
Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero strategy is also a very valuable series of articles because it presents several ideas, such as an Email DMZ , that you can implement in piecemeal. The DMZ concept is simple – take all the email in your inbox and stick it into a new folder labeled DMZ. From this point forward, you will treat your inbox as a clean slate. This is the equivalent of declaring email bankruptcy  without the unfortunately bankruptcy part.
Another effective strategy I’ve picked up, and I wish I knew where I read it so I could proper credit, was to ask the emailer what they wanted me to do. I get a lot of “stories” followed by a request for help. They are very detailed stories about their situation and the reality is I have no idea how I could possibly help. So I reply with that answer – “What would you like me to do?” (some version of that). The majority of the time, far more than I anticipated, there is no response and I didn’t waste my time crafting a long answer that probably wouldn’t have solved anything anyway.
Email has really taken up a large part of our day and it’s really difficult to stay on top of it. I’ll be implementing many of these strategies in the near future to help me be better with my email. If you have any valuable tips you can share, or resources worth reading, please let me know in the comments.
(Photo: wangarific )