Have you ever opened your email only to be floored by the number of unread emails that have piled up since you last sat at your desk? Every email in your inbox represents another demand on your time, so discovering you’ve got a double- or triple-digit number of emails to deal with can throw off your productivity for your entire work day. Here’s what you can do to tame the inbox beast.
> Set Boundaries. Set yourself (and your subordinates) up for success by avoiding sending or responding to email outside of your working hours. Even if you write an email after hours, use the “delay send” function to also send the message that you respect others’ working hours (and expect yours to be respected as well).
> Limit Yourself. Rather than just setting boundaries for your work hours, take it one step further and schedule regular times to check your email throughout the day. Numerous studies show that limiting your email time improves concentration and workflow, as well as reducing stress.
> Notify No More. Don’t let notifications and alerts on your computer or phone distract you from an important task or time away from the office. Rather than noticing every time another email comes in, go ahead and turn off your phone and computer notifications and rely on your regular email checks throughout the day to see if anything urgent has come up. This will also help keep your stress levels low—by staying in control of when you choose to look at your email, you can help prevent panic from creeping up as the notifications roll in.
> Actively Engage. It’s easy to scroll through emails, file your tasks or thoughts away in your brain, and tell yourself that you’ll deal with it later. Instead, try using your established email time to appropriately file, respond to, and delete emails. This will help you stay on top of tasks and reduce any sense of overload.
Sometimes, an unmanageable amount of emails is indicative of an unmanageable amount of work. Many professionals feel the need to respond “Yes” to each and every opportunity, but keep in mind that every “Yes” leads to piles of reminders, meeting requests, and more in your email inbox. Prioritizing your opportunities and responsibilities and learning to say “No” when appropriate will only benefit your number of unread emails and stress levels.