I got a new computer last week, and I had to reset all of my settings in the Office programs, such as the color of my calendar and which side the e-mail preview box shows up on, etc. I’m sure you’ve all felt that pain.
Having not personalized all of the settings yet, I was reminded of the worst invention ever – the little box that pops up on the bottom right-hand side of the monitor when you have a new e-mail. You know the one, and if you’re like me, you turn it off. If you’re not like me, you leave it on and are distracted every time a new e-mail comes into your inbox. For me, that would be more than 200 times per day on average. No wonder so many people complain about their lack of time in the day when they are overcome with new e-mail messages.
This reminds me of one of my favorite concepts that I’ve come across in recent years – “inbox zero.” Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from inbox zero posts (http://www.43folders.com/izero).
– The only way an email will ever get out of your life (and out of your worrying brain) is to either deal with it or get rid of it. If you’re planning to do anything in-between, you should have an explicit understanding of why you’re doing so. Any idea which one of these is a particularly sh%#ty idea? Touch everything once whenever possible, but even if you’re busy, take the extra 2 seconds to consider whether this really has any place in your life. If not, just punt it. Article of Faith #5: “Lying to yourself doesn’t empty an inbox.”
– Seriously: is this an email you are ever going to respond to? If it’s more than a week or two old, either answer it or delete it now.
– When you check your email and find yourself groaning “Ugh, this again?” consider creating a filter.
– Limit the number of times you check for and then scan new email throughout each day. An email auto-check set for every minute means 60 potential distractions every hour, or almost 500 per day. Look back at a week of your emails and ask yourself: how many distractions was that really worth? How much crucial, instantly actionable email did I receive to make it worth shifting my attention over 2000 times?
I hope some of these tips help all of you busy communicators out there. Now go turn that e-mail notification box off!