First, I would like to thank whoever spammed me to remind me that is was International Clean Out Your Inbox Week (the irony was not lost on me). This week of virtual cleaning (the 4th annual event, by the way) is promoted by email productivity expert Marsha Egan (you can check out Marsha’s blog and website here: http://www.inboxdetox.com/blog ). On Marsha’s site, she has many interesting email statistics, such as:
- 247 billion emails are sent each day (half of which, I believe, are selling male enhancement drugs)
- 62% of at-work email users check their work email over an average weekend (my guess is that people that work from home have an even higher rate)
- 50% of Americans check their work email while on vacation
Many of us have an inbox ready to burst at the virtual seams (or at least causing those annoying “your mailbox has exceeded its size limits” emails). Do you have over 100 emails sitting in your inbox right now? 200? 300? 1,000? As teleworkers and virtual workers, email is often our primary means of communication. Unfortunately, excessive amounts of email often degrade our productivity. Here are a couple of thoughts to help with cleaning out your inbox:
- Do it, delete it, date activate it, or file it. The folks over at Priority Management (www.prioritymanagement.com) have a simple way to think of managing your inbox. Don’t constantly live in your inbox, but set a few hours aside every day to work through your email, knocking out the easy-to-do activities, deleting non-value emails, filing stuff away in your personal folders or turning the email into a task with a deadline to complete. The idea is to have an empty inbox at the end of every day (yes, this sounds impossible, but at least try to get everything in your inbox to fit on one screen for starters).
- Use other forms of communication besides email. Have a quick question or need a fast response? Use instant messaging. Working with a team on a project? Use discussion boards or wikis. Want to build relationships? Pick up the phone. Don’t get lazy with email – recognize that there are plenty of ways to share information and communicate besides hitting the send button. Reducing the size of your inbox can also mean reducing the amount of email you send.
- Consider “email amnesty.” The idea is to delete any unanswered email in your inbox. A variation of this concept to wipe out any email sitting in your inbox that you haven’t touched in over 30 days. Think about it: if your emails were physical possessions, would you find yourself on the A&E network show Hoarders?
- Email-free days. I have often heard of this but admit I have never tried it (what would I do with my day if I had no email?). If you are a manager, consider enforcing an email-free day where no one on the team is allowed to send an email. It not only cuts down on the amount of email floating back and forth, but it may also allow people to get some work done.
What’s your best practice? Drop me a line and let me know. And don’t forget to clean up your inbox this week!