I’m a little obsessive compulsive about my email. Here’s what I mean:
- When my email “dings” at me on my computer, I stop whatever I’m doing to read and react to that email.
- I have all my emails being pushed to my phone every 5 minutes.
- I wake up in the morning and one of the first things I want to do is check my email.
- I respond to ministry emails when I’m not “on the clock.”
- People I minister with expect a very quick email response from me.
- I like my inbox to be at zero.
- When I don’t get through all my email, I feel like I have left a major project undone.
Does this sound like you? Maybe a little.
I don’t even receive that many emails in a day compared to some people I know. I can’t even imagine how I would react if I received 500+ emails a day!
Why am I a little OCD? Well, for two reasons:
- I like order and systems. My email inbox is something I can fully control, where much of life is not like that.
- It’s part of my value system. My team and I follow the rule that we respond to every email and phone message within 24-48 hours, unless we’re on vacation or it’s a weekend or holiday.
Fortunately, I have recently encountered some blog posts and podcasts that have helped me get better at managing my email inbox. Since I started doing these 4 things to simplify my inbox, I have felt much less stress and been much more productive.
- Check email twice a day. I schedule two times in my day (maybe 3), usually at the beginning of my day and one at the end, to check my email. When I’m done, I shut down my email program so that it doesn’t keep “dinging” at me and distracting me from my other tasks and projects.
- Set your phone to “manually” pull emails. This was an important one for me. My phone used to “ding” at me every 5 minutes, which meant I found myself wanting to check my email. Just like leaving my email program open, it distracted me from my work. I do check and respond to email on my phone, but I only do it during my scheduled email time.
- Empty your inbox completely. Every time I check email, my goal is to empty my inbox. That means I either respond quickly and delete the email (or archive it), or I file it away in the appropriate folder. So read on.
- Get rid of your complicated email folder system. I now use only 4 folders: Action Required, Waiting for Response, Archive, and Deleted Email.
Email was controlling my workflow and productivity. I’m the one that needs to control my workflow, not my email. These 4 simple strategies have helped me out tremendously in my ministry!
Question: Do you feel your email controls you? What ideas have you used to simplify your inbox?