I was first introduced to David Allen through one of my mentors about one year ago. At that time, I was experiencing overwhelm just at the thought of opening my email. I have since employed his time and task mastery techniques for email in my own life and wow! David Allen’s approach is both practical and honoring of our need to be effective in the world.
His techniques are simple, yet effective. And best of all, his techniques have cured my feeling of overwhelm when it comes to my inbox!
First and foremost, DELETE from your inbox whatever is six months or older. Be honest with yourself, there is nothing there that you need. There is nothing you are going to miss…really, nothing!
Second, UNSUSCRIBE to newsletters that you never or rarely read…even if it is my newsletter! If you receive emails from businesses, also consider UNSUSCRIBING. Trust that the information in the newsletter and the discount or special offer from the business will come to you another way if it is truly worthwhile!
Third, ORGANIZE your email. Make folders for projects, purchases, course work, donations, financial, tax receipts, etc. Then going forth, use the folders after scanning through the email to move them out of your inbox to their appropriate place.
Fourth, start to sift through your email that is less than 6 months old by setting aside 5-10 minutes daily to open it and determine if it is something to read and/or file. The rest is best DELETED. Again, if it is truly worthwhile and for you, trust it will find its way to you.
Fifth, start a practice of setting aside one time segment daily of 20-30 minutes to go into your email and CARE for it. This means sorting through it and responding to what needs it now or placing it in the appropriate folder. If you depend on email as part of your business, perhaps you feel you need to check your email more than once per day. I strongly encourage you to check your email no more than three times per day. The more screen time for most of us, the more frazzled we feel, but don’t take my word…see what is true for you! The batching principle, which is the less often you switch activities, the more efficient you are, applies here.
Also anytime you are not caring for your email, CLOSE your email browser, so you are not distracted by incoming email alerts. Also, turn off you email notifications completely, if possible. The less distractions, the calmer the nervous system…again, try it for yourself.
Clear your email inbox from top to bottom, for skipping around is inefficient and ineffectual. Also for a time, consider committing to opening a minimal amount of email, such as those that are from a real person such as a friend, boss, family member, co-worker, mentor, etc.
When you get to nothing in your inbox, CELEBRATE! Then using the above techniques, keep it that way. After having maintained a zero inbox for almost one year, I notice a sense of lightness and joy as I approach my inbox now. Try it for yourself and let me know how it goes on my FB page. Blessings!!!
You may find more task and time mastery elements from David Allen in his book Getting Things Done.