7 simple steps to facilitate your relationship with your email
Zen advice, and from Google’s CEO, for delicious electronic freedom.
It is not emails that generate dread in us on every work morning, but the anticipation of opening that flashing mailbox or the uncomfortable procrastination of not properly responding to each email because even the thought of it overwhelms us. But if one thing is ubiquitous in the century of the Internet, it is email. And because the inbox will not go away, we found some ways to resolve it more quickly and in a better and perhaps even more fun way.
- Select junk mail, newsletters, routine notifications, automatic replies, chains, publicity and anything that is not really important. Delete it.
- Respond quickly. Many of the best –and busiest– people we know respond quickly to their emails, not just to ours or to certain selected senders’ but to everybody’s. The answers can be short: “Got it” is a favorite one. In fact, that single phrase is better than no reply at all, since the non-response usually means you’re overworked and that particular sender is not to your liking. You can even create prefabricated answers to common emails you receive. This recommendation is courtesy of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, How Google Works.
- Don’t open your mail unless you’re prepared to deal with it there and then, says Charles Hudson, author of Inbox Freedom: The Zen Master’s Guide to Tackling Your Email & Work. “Instead of camping out in your email all day, only open it when you have time to respond, archive, delete, or convert your emails into actions,” he says. “Emails are not so daunting when you deal with them only once.”
- Clean out your inbox constantly. Everything that is email from the bank, invoices, bills to pay, etc., move it immediately to the appropriate folder and open it only when you’re sure you can resolve it. Delete or archive what you have read so as not to return to it. Label mails requiring a deeper reading with a star (in Gmail) so you can come back later with more time, Eric Schmidt advises. Never tag more than five important emails. If you have more than five, sort out the leftovers immediately.
- Answer emails in order of appearance. The most recent should be dealt with first. Sometimes the older ones will have already been resolved by someone else.
- Help your future self to find things. If you get something you think you’ll want to remember later, resend it to yourself with some key words that describe its content.
- When you write an email, every word counts, says Schmidt. Useless prose is no good. If you are describing a problem, define it clearly. Doing this requires more time, not less. You have to write a draft and revise it to eliminate any unnecessary words. Most emails are full of parts that the reader can skip. Do not promote that.
Image: The Flying Carpet, a depiction of the hero of Russian folklore Ivan Tsarevich
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