Thursday, June 19, 2014

Three Undeniable Facts Keeping You Trapped In E-Mail Overload

E-Mail OverloadAre you sitting there trying to get work done, but you're faced with an overflowing e-mail inbox that just keeps growing bigger despite your best efforts to clear it? I hear you! I've been there myself ... in the past.

But my life (my work life, that is) changed when I looked at e-mail a different way. So here are three undeniable facts about e-mail that are contributing to your overflowing inbox.

1. You Don't Treat Your E-Mail Inbox Like a Mailbox

Tell me this: Every day, when you hear the postie drive by, and you go to your letter box to collect your mail, how do you sort through the mail? You might throw out the junk mail immediately, open and read a few other pieces and then throw it out, and then keep the rest for processing later.

But I bet you don't stuff any of the mail back into the letter box. Do you? That would just seem bizarre. After all, the mailbox is only a convenient, temporary storage place between you and the postie. She puts stuff in, you take it out. That's it.

So, if this is the case with your physical letter box, why don't you treat your e-mail inbox the same way?

Stop keeping things in your e-mail inbox. It's only there for messages to pass through.

2. E-Mail Is Not Your Problem

Most e-mail is somebody else's problem, turning up in your To Do list for the day. If you spend your day responding to what's in your inbox, or keep messages in your inbox after you open them (see the previous point!), all you're doing is living your life according to other people's priorities.

If that is your job (e.g. you're an EA or work in some customer service roles), then that's fair enough - it's what you need to do. But if it isn't, then stop acting as if it is.

3. Going Through Your Inbox Is Fun

OK, let's face it ... Even if you have an overflowing inbox, it can be enjoyable to go through it, processing messages and reducing the number of messages still sitting there. Even if you don't think of it as the most fun thing you ever do, it can be a light, fun distraction from doing more important work. And it has an in-built reward - seeing the number of messages go down - that lights up our brain's pleasure centre.

That doesn't make it worthwhile, though! It just means you're rewarding the wrong things, and it's still taking you away from what really matters.

So what are you going to do about it?

So here are the three undeniable facts again:

  1. You Don't Treat Your E-Mail Inbox Like a Mailbox
  2. E-Mail Is Not Your Problem
  3. Going Through Your Inbox Is Fun

I realise that, even if you agree with these three things, I haven't told you how to address them. But just understanding and accepting this is a good start!

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