When Cal Newport’s “A World Without Email” came out, it struck a chord with many knowledge workers. We feel bogged down by the neverending flow of emails. In fact, I often feel major dread at the end of a long weekend or holiday, thinking about what I will find in my mailbox the next morning. I also know that if my mailbox gets too full, I will continuous stress – I prefer to have my Inbox Zero.
I’ve been using a few strategies over the past to keep an Inbox Zero:
- Use folders: I have folders in my mailbox for various types of email, and associated timeslots in my weekly schedule to address what goes in there. I’ve been alternating in the past between filing in folders and tackling at some point during the week, and trying to clear the decks on a daily basis. Jury’s out on which one of the two works best. By all means, scheduling time in my planner to address some of the larger asks that come in, has helped me.
- Acknowledge the time it takes to reply: I used to set aside very limited time to address emails, and I got further and further behind. I now acknowledge that part of my day is spent on replying emails, and that many of the questions of students that come in, are part of my tasks as a teacher. I also now know better than scheduling a lot of meetings right when I return from holidays – better set aside a few days to clear the decks and then get fully started again.
- Ruthlessly unsubscribe: Nobody needs all those newsletters anyway, so I’ve unsubscribed to a lot (although I do hope you enjoy reading the PhD Talk newsletter…).
- Delete: As unkind as it sounds, I do not have the time nor energy to reply poorly formulated cold emails with job applications and other emails like that. So I just delete them. It took me some time to acknowledge, but it is not my job to explain these folks how they need to apply for a PhD position – everything is on the website.
How do you manage your email?