How to clear your email inbox like a pro

How to clear your email inbox like a pro

Email is dead!! Or is it? Even though we all collaborate online using tools like Trello and Slack, our clients don’t seem to have noticed and keep sending an endless stream of requests, questions and changes by email. It’s often a struggle to keep up and there is a danger that tasks get overlooked. To help you out, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to deal with your overflowing email inbox without turning your to-do list (and your life!) into a sloppy mess.

#1 Stop checking email constantly

Checking email constantly is a waste of time. It’s a major distraction and will ruin the rest of your workflow. So close the email program and the GMail browser tab and turn your phone to silent while working on client projects. Treat ‘checking your email’ the same as any other task and dedicate a certain part of your day to it. Early morning and just after lunch are a great time. If you need more convincing, read Tim Ferriss’s (of Four Hour Work Week fame) classic post on How to Check E-Mail Twice a Day.

#2 Tackle emails one at a time

It’s easy to read your emails and end up with an inbox of read mail, but without having taken any action! The to-do list in your head is now full of tasks but are you any further than you were before reading the emails? No!

Instead, deal with each email as a mini project and make a split-second decision:

  • Are the requests or the questions in the email so small that you can do them in 2 minutes? Then do them right now! If it takes longer to track the task than to do the task, then tracking it is a waste of your time. When you’re finished, fire back a quick email and remove the message from your inbox! Job done, move on to the next email. (This, by the way, is a tip straight from the GTD philosophy.)
  • Client emails that bundle multiple requests or have larger questions can’t be done immediately. Transfer these to your to-do list of choice. Copy/paste works well and some apps allow you to forward emails to them. I tend to keep small requests together in one batch. Larger changes get their own to-do card. Then hit reply, tell your client that the work has been added to the project workflow and will be completed in due course. Again, job done, archive the email and move on to the next thread.
  • Keep going until you’re finished and your inbox is empty. That was easy, wasn’t it? All tasks have been transferred to your favourite project management tool and your inbox (and your life!) stayed tidy and organised.

How do you keep on top of client requests? Share your workflow and your favourite tools in the comments!