If distractions ("squirrels") invade your inbox, they also invade your life. This is how I manage my email to save at least 1-2 hours each and every day, and avoid time-wasting distractions:
(1) Prevent extra emails from invading in the first place.
Do you really need to be on every single email list for the emails that enter your inbox? If you take 10 minutes a week to unsubscribe from unproductive or marginally productive lists, you will get hours of time back. Really, you won't miss anything important--you info-junkie.
(2) Use "rules" in your email program to sort into "buckets" for later reading
I use Mac Mail and set up "rules" It is easy to go to the preferences page and set up any rule you want. One that has saved me hours is to automatically filter mass emails into my "read second" folder--which I then, well.... read second. I set time aside every few days to read these mass emails--and I do my best to invoke other rules or unsubscribe from the lists that are not worth my time.
(3) Establish an Email ritual to deal with the ones that get to you
I read emails in priority order--most important "buckets" first and I set a time limit. I never read emails in the morning (my creative time). When I read emails, I decide to respond immediately (keeping it short), to schedule for later action and perhaps a longer more thoughtful response, or I file for later reference or reading.
(4) Be realistic
Realize that you will likely NEVER touch something twice. I learned this lesson when I realize how often I actually read my archived emails... which is pretty much never. I still archive them, though, just in case, but find that I mostly delete archives with no harm done.
(5) Email inbox services
Some people like these services like sanebox or boomerang. I don't personally use them because I find the above actions sufficient.
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