I have waffled between two different theories on email inbox management. One theory says that your inbox should always be at zero. You should set aside specific periods of time each day to clean out your inbox. Each email should be read and then immediately dealt with, whether that means replying and filing the email, simply filing it for later reference, or deleting it.
I would argue that if you are in any kind of customer service or client facing role, this is probably your only option. There is simply no excuse for not responding to a customer or client email, and you have to be on top of your inbox in order to be sure that all parties are taken care of.
The second theory says never delete anything. We have “infinite” email storage these days, so just go through emails as they come in and only save/file away the ones that are super important. Then use your search function to find old emails whenever you need them. This system drives some people CRAZY. But, as Business Insider was recently kind enough to point out, it may actually be a sign that you have a healthy relationship with technology:
According to Ron Friedman, Ph.D., author of “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace,” an overflowing inbox could mean you’re overwhelmed or disengaged. But “it can also mean that you recognize that [monitoring and organizing your emails] isn’t helping you achieve progress. And that’s a sign of intelligence.”
Sometimes when we are overwhelmed, organizing our inbox is a quick, easy way to feel productive. It makes us feel like we have regained control of an out-of-control day. But it is important to remember that by organizing our inbox we are not actually accomplishing any of our business objectives. Inboxes do not sell. Inboxes do not finish projects. And inboxes do not develop our team members. We do those things.
Take an hour off of email today! Focus on one task and actually accomplish it. Feels good, right? I would love to hear your email tips – please share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.