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Getting Productive in 2008 with Jott

Getting Productive in 2008 with Email

Inbox_to_zero If you've been following along this week, you know that I'm sharing some time management tips and tools that I've been trying out as part of my ongoing attempt to be more productive. Yesterday I talked about the Two Minute Rule. Today I'm going to talk about getting through email, which is without a doubt, one of the biggest time sucks for many people.

Use Your Inbox as a Runway, Not a Parking Spot
Lisa Peake has a great article on the 10 Beginner Behaviors for GTD and one of them is to use your inbox as a runway, getting things in and out of there as quickly as possible. I love that metaphor as it gives me a way to keep thinking about whether or not I'm using my inbox effectively. If stuff is sticking around for awhile, clearly there's a problem.

Check Your Email Only a Few Times a Day
Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, says that you should only check email twice a day--once at mid morning (never check first thing unless you want to get sucked into email hell) and once in mid-afternoon. I will tell you right now that this is the one I struggle with the most, but Tim and others make the excellent point that each time we check email, we're shifting our attention away from whatever we're working on, making it more difficult to return to our previous task. Having engaged in obsessive email checking, I can say that I'm always more focused when I can't get online, so I've been trying very hard to do this. It really does help.

Process Your Email Effectively
Since you're only checking your email a few times a day, now you have to learn how to process it. Basically you'll need to decide if you should:

  • Delete it
  • Archive it
  • Defer it for later (if it will take you longer than 2 minutes to generate a response)
  • Generate a next action step from it
  • Respond to it immediately, if it will take you 2 minutes or less.

As you go through your inbox, make decisions quickly and move your email out of your inbox into the appropriate folder. If you need to defer emails until later to respond, put them in a separate folder and then set aside time to go through and crank out as many responses as you can. Here are some additional tips on processing your email that might be helpful.

The ultimate goal is getting your inbox to empty. I will tell you that this has not happened for me for a few weeks now, despite my attempts to get better at processing. I still think that these are great ideas, though, and I continue diligently in my attempts to apply them.


What are your best tips for managing your email?

Photo via rscottjones.


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Great post! I need to be reminded of this constantly. John

Me too, John--email is definitely my biggest challenge!

My tip: Put the purpose of the e-mail in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence. The military calls it BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front. (Business e-mails should not tell a story.) If your e-mail has a vertical scroll bar, it's too long. If you continually practice this, you will find you write with greater clarity and your co-workers and customers will appreciate that. Instead of avoiding your e-mails, they will read them and act upon them.

Who knows? Maybe you'll start an ideavirus in your organization.


Here is a great article on this topic....I am beginning to utilize my folders better at least..

Ten Steps To Become An Email Ninja at www.fourhourworkweek.com

ok,your gmail isn't coming up it says 'done' but there is a blank page. will try again later.

I recently moved to gmail and my inbox was a big parking lot. After reading your post I was motivated to go in and properly label messages, delete others, and archive most of them. Now if I can just keep this up...

Checking e-mail just two times a day might be a little harder, but it certainly makes sense.

Glenn's right on the money re: bottom line up front. I also try to organize my work related e-mails so it is easy for the readers to scan for the key info; itemized lists, summaries at the end etc.

Thanks for another great post!

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