How to Master Your Inbox Once and for All

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With over 200 million email sent every minute, it’s no secret that email is a big freaking problem for everyone. It’s about time you got email to work for you instead of being its slave, it’s about time you mastered email once and for all!

"Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master" ~  Gretchen Rubin

Believe You Can Master Your Inbox

It’s funny that email is one of the oldest internet services we’ve had, and till date we struggle to master it. The problem is not in the tools or how email work, it’s in the way we work, and in particular in our belief system that originates from the days when we communicated using physical mail.

Mail takes time to write, send, and to reach the intended destination. Then there’s the whole ritual of opening a long-awaited letter, reading it by the fireplace and spending days contemplating a reply in our cabin deep in the woods!

That surreal and unpractical belief is still present in the way we deal with email. In much the same way, we take time to write and send email, and we give it way too much thought. There is nothing wrong with that, some emails require some thought, but the challenge is we are losing time, energy and peace of mind.

Email is not a chess game, and while you may see it as a strategic exercise that needs to exhaust all your years of business and entrepreneurial experience, it’s not.

"When topics are complex and meaty, don't create a never-ending email thread. It's amazing how much time people waste composing and reading carefully-worded essays when a 5-minute in-person chat would resolve the whole thing" ~  Justin Rosenstein

Email is a form of communication, and you have only one role to play and master; to be in communication.

You can master email by mastering being in communication, maintaining a fast flow of the most important information and being flexible when things don’t go as planned.

 

Become Faster

Email is everywhere; on your computer, laptop, mobile, and now your freaking watch! To add to that, people expect you to receive their emails, read them, reply or take an action the moment they click “Send!” You must become faster, it’s a matter of survival, and here is how:

STOP USING GMAIL:

It’s great that you have a Gmail account, and you host your company emails on Gmail, it’s a great email service, probably the best. However Gmail’s email interface is only as fast as your internet connection, and it has limited capabilities.

Use Mac Mail or any other desktop software, it’s much faster, and you can manipulate emails with ease.

STOP USING EMAIL FOLDERS LIKE REGULAR FOLDERS:

Please! No email folders for people, companies, projects, or topics, sorry but that is just stupid. Emails are first and foremost pieces of communication; they are not files to be archived and organized.

You might be still receiving those emails that are more documents than emails; you might be guilty of creating some yourself. That’s fine, you can easily grab the email and drag it to your desktop, or to any folder, and it will become a file that you can archive in a folder along with other files relating to a specific person, company, project, or topic. A better, more organized, streamlined and clear way of filing.

STOP DROWNING IN EMAIL - USE SANEBOX:

SaneBox is your secret weapon to beat email for the following reasons:

  • Social Intelligence: SaneBox scans your emails and social networks and figures out that which emails are important and deserve to be in your inbox, and which are less important and you can deal with later (you will find them in another folder called SaneLater)

  • Easy Training: as you start your relationship with SaneBox it will learn what’s important to you and what’s not. All you have to do is move emails around, and SaneBox will learn where emails from certain people should go, and you will never again have to tell it what to do.

  • On Your Terms: by setting up Snooze Folders you get certain emails re-sent to your inbox at the time you choose. All you have to do is place those emails at the snooze folders you created.

  • Fuck Spam: the genius folks at SaneBox created a Black Hole folder, anything you put there disappears and you never see it again! No longer do you have to waste time unsubscribing from anything, just throw it in the Black Hole.

BECOME AN EMAIL SUPERHERO - USE MIXMAX:

MixMax* makes you much faster on email and here is how:

  • Meetings in One Email: have you ever tried to set up appointments using email, it takes forever and many emails back and forth. Using MixMax it takes a few seconds to choose the times you are available, it then automatically places them in the email, and then all the other person has to do is choose what works for them and the meeting will show up both within your calendar and theirs.

  • Easy Link Sharing: no more cutting and pasting links to your email, and writing what the link is. All you have to do is click on the MixMax extension in Chrome, and it will pick up the link with the title, image, and the first two lines. Simply awesome.

  • Templates: If you ever had to send the same email to a lot of people you will love that you can create and use templates on MixMax with full HTML capabilities with photos, links, and signatures.

  • Multiple Accounts: you can compose an email using any of your Gmail accounts by clicking on MixMax extension in Chrome, without any need to login to that particulate account or even be on Gmail*. 

*You do have to have a Gmail account, to connect all your Gmail accounts with MixMax and download the Chrome extension.

FORCE ORDER EMAIL FOLDERS:

When you create email folders, whether connect them with SaneBox or not, they will be in alphabetical order, and so “Month” will come before “Today” or “Tomorrow.”

To force your email to order the folders the way you want them to appear, add a symbol and numbers to the name. Here are the folders I use: 

  • #1 Today for the emails I must deal with today

  • #2 Tomorrow for the emails I will deal with tomorrow

  • #3 Few Days for emails I will deal with in 3 days

  • #4 Week for emails I will deal with in a week

  • #5 Two Weeks for emails I will deal with in 2 weeks

  • #6 Month for emails I will deal with in a month

  • #7 Content for emails that has good content and I want to read or review later

  • #8 Later for emails that SaneBox thinks are not important, and I can deal with later

  • #9 Black Hole for all emails I want to disappear from my inbox forever

  

Prioritize First

Most people consider reading and answering email as one thing, it’s not! How many times have you received an email that brought your day to a complete stop?! You start reading it, got angry or excited, and then started writing a reply, forgetting all about the work you have to do, the emails you need to deal with, and the appointments you must be ready for. It’s an“email time trap” that sucks you in, keeps you stuck and you lose track of time. 

"One look at an email can rob you of 15 minutes of focus. One call on your cell phone, one tweet, one instant message can destroy your schedule, forcing you to move meetings, or blow off really important things, like love, and friendship" ~  Jacqueline Leo

It’s very hard to escape the email time trap. That is why you must prioritize first and here is how you can do it:

Schedule time for email:

Do you keep email open and keep checking it every chance you’ve got or every time it notifies you that you have received an email? STOP DOING THAT

"Email is familiar. It's comfortable. It's easy to use. But it might just be the biggest killer of time and productivity in the office today" ~  Ryan Holmes

Email is a task, it’s not an ongoing activity, unlike breathing, you won’t die if you don’t email!

Schedule 2-4 email sessions, 30-60min long in your day, depending on how much email you are dealing with.

Structure Your Email Session - Delete / Action / Schedule

When it is time for your email session, open your email, skim through your emails, and at each one make one of three decisions:

Delete:

Email is not an archiving tool or a filing system, so don’t use it for archiving or filing, so delete any email that’s:

  • Not important; contains no valuable information or redundant information

  • Redundant; contains info that you have somewhere else like Google Docs invites - the documents will be in your Google Drive, so there is no need to keep the email

  • Useless info; info that loses its importance once you know it, like replies such as “thank you,” “ok I will,” “received,” “see you there”… etc

  • Spam; anything you didn’t want, didn’t subscribe for, and any unsolicited sales emails 

Action:

Some emails require you to take quick action that can be done on the spot in less than 1 min. These actions include:

  • Schedule, confirm or cancel an appointment - takes less than a minute

  • Respond with a yes, no, received, forward to, contact, follow up with …etc

  • Save attachment in a related folder on your computer. Never leave attachments in the email, remember, it’s not a filing or archiving software.

  • Move emails you want to keep to an email folder, these includes: Electronic invoices and online purchase receipts*, Service cancellation confirmations, Account details and software licenses, Tickets and reservations, Newsletter you want to keep to read later, Links sent to you that you want to read later, News, ebooks, Webinars.

*It's highly recommended that you get a finance software like Mint to track your financials, don’t just rely on email to save such data.

Schedule

If the email needs more than a minute or two to answer, schedule it.

  • Use The Calendar: If the email is a task, or part of a project and needs a significant chunk of time to work on, simply drag it to the calendar. It will become an event and part of your day or week landscape (this feature is only available if you are using Mac email).

  • Use Snooze Folders: These are folders that indicate when you need to answer the email; Tomorrow, Few Days, Week, Two Weeks, Month. Those Snooze Folders are an amazing feature of SaneBox, and you will find those emails back in your inbox exactly at the time you are ready to deal with them, depending on which folder you put them in. That for me is just magic.

  • Use Today Folder: have a folder called today, and place all the emails you need to answer today in it.

Inbox Zero!

Your inbox is now empty, you’ve just achieved Inbox Zero! Go ahead, celebrate with a little dance :)

"I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I'm really good at email" ~ Elon Musk

 

Be Flexible

"Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach" ~ Tony Robbins

Congratulations! You are now fully ready for disruption. You know life happens, it doesn't ask you for permission!

You will get those super important, super urgent emails about all kinds of shit happening in your world; things that are a complete disaster, or things that worked all too well!

Either way, you just have to deal with such things on the spot. They might throw you off balance, and they might mess up your schedule, but now that you're in control of email, they will never cause you to worry or lose your peace of mind. You are free!

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