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How to manage your Email inbox

It's not uncommon to hear these days that people are feeling swamped by their inbox. With the average office worker receiving 121 emails per day, and most not having a clear system on how to handle them, it doesn't take long for an inbox to look overwhelming.


The principles from "Getting Things Done" by David Allen are designed to help us manage the massive influx of information coming at us on a daily, even hourly basis. In the book he talks about two types of information: contained and non-contained. Non-contained information - such as someone phoning and asking for something, or a random thought - needs to become contained and placed into a contained source of information as quickly as possible. Contained information are named as such because they can be sorted, managed and filed. Contained sources of information, like emails, need to have a system through which they are managed and reviewed to not become overwhelming.

For most people (even if they aren't aware of it) there are 5 types of emails. 1. Those that can be answered instantly. 2. Those that require a more thought out answer. 3. Those that need to be filed for later. 4. Those that can be deleted. 5. Those needing to be sent without an email in the inbox to create a prompt.

Once we know these 5 types of emails we can set up a plan on how to mange them using the principles from Step 2. of the "Getting Things Done" method, which I refer to as Reflect.

Regarding emails:

Type 1: Those answerable instantly are answered and filed. Type 2: Those that I need to think about or gather resources stay in my inbox. Type 3: Those I need for later are filed as I check my emails. Type 4: Those that can be deleted are deleted then and there.

Applying the above means that an email inbox only ever has emails that require the reply email to have a more thought out response. This means there is no additional tracker or reminder is needed for the first 4 types. They are answered, filed, deleted or remain in the inbox for further prompting to reply to them.

Type 5: Those needing to be sent at a certain time without an email in the inbox to prompt this, are scheduled or added to a task list. Personally I use Hubspot to manage relationships as I found I needed something more robust and connected than a paper tracker to bring together tasks, documents, meetings and more. Whatever you use, the key here, is to add to a contained source that you Come Back and Reflect apon on a consistent basis.

If you want to join a community where we share productivity tips just like this one, and tips on practicing mindfulness to create an experience of being fulfilled each and every day, celebrating the Things Already Done & Accomplished (TADA!!) click this link:

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