29 September 2021

Why Inbox Zero Won’t Fix Your Email Problems

How many times are you checking your email each day? Either because you’re bored or because you’re trying to stay on top of your unread count? How much spam are you getting? Cat memes you didn’t ask for (but why not, they’re about cats!), and messages you didn’t need to be cc’d on. That’s not including all the newsletters and ads you subscribed to at one point.

The business world runs on email.

Love it or hate it, you can’t leave it behind or pretend it doesn’t exist.  But beyond basic communication, email can be just as much of a distraction as it is a tool. This is where Inbox Zero comes in.

You’ve heard of Inbox Zero, right? It’s a productivity hack, a system that was developed as a way of managing email clutter and distractions. The goal is to keep the inbox empty – or nearly empty – at all times. Inbox zero. It’s a great goal, one that a lot of people work hard to maintain on a daily basis. This is not about those people.

This is about other people. Those whose inbox will fill up with emails, into the thousands, and they’ll set aside a day to try and achieve Inbox Zero through mass deletions and processing.  It’s a one day blitz and after achieving their goal, and celebrating, the user goes back to business as usual.

Using Inbox Zero this way is just like putting your inbox on a diet.

The problem with so many diets out there is that they are focused only on achieving the result. Drink this shake and lose 10 pounds. Try this meal plan for a month and lose 15 pounds. The thought is you go on a diet, then eventually you go off a diet and return to your normal life. With this approach, there’s no permanent change in how you behave. Once you’re off the diet you go back to living the behaviors that got you there in the first place. 

Too many people use Inbox Zero like a diet for your inbox. They focus on getting the result – zero emails – thinking this will solve all their email problems.  But an inbox diet isn’t the answer to email management. Better habits are.

So what can you do today to better manage your email?

  1. Make a decision about that email the first time you read it – action item, reference item, or trash. Read and react.
  2. Create filters to keep your inbox uncluttered. Get those urgent items front and center instead of hidden in the spam.
  3. Set specific times to check emails and turn off your notifications. Theses dings and flags interrupt your workflow and decrease your productivity.
  4. Be the change you want to see in the world. Send the type of messages you want to receive and model positive email behavior to others.

And remember, better email management is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Instead of chasing the goal of trying to get down to zero emails in your inbox, focus on building better habits as the way to manage your inbox and incoming email!

Need help getting your email under control? Call me and let’s talk about how!

8 June 2021

Email is a Trap


28 April 2021

Fixing Email – Step 3

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about email and how the answer to fixing email might be in how you handle the messages you send, rather than how you handle the messages you receive. There are five steps we can take to fix email. The first step we discussed was brevity and the second step was using better subject lines (you can read that post here: Step 2 to Fixing Email) .

The third step I wanted to talk about has to do with what you’re actually writing the email about. That’s right, the content of your message is always important.

We all know people who can cover three or four topics in a single conversational breath.  They’ve got lots to share and you to share it with. While this might be fine when it’s time to catch up, it’s not that great for an email exchange. Following up to better subject lines, try and keep your emails focused on one topic or issue of concern.  This makes it easier to file a reference email and gives you a clear focus for your next steps with an action email.

However, this is one of those “use your best judgement” steps. If you’re writing a newsy email to grandma then multiple subjects are okay. You’re catching her up on all that is your life. But in the business world, it helps to stay focused. A short, one topic email may be more likely to get a response than an email that jumps all over the place.

So what’s your next step? Before you send another email, take a moment and consider what the email is really about. Does the subject line reflect that? Is the content of the email just as long as it needs to be, and focused on one topic? If so, hit send!

How’s your email looking this week? Are you overwhelmed with incoming mail or do you feel like you’ve got it under control? Drop me an email (april@iliosdigital.com) or comment here and let me know!

Don’t forget to join us next week for Step 4 to fixing email!

3 March 2021

Is There Mystery Meat in Your Inbox?

I picked up canned cat food at the store the other day. Looking at the shelf it always seems there is at least one can, if not a couple, that are in danger of losing their paper labels. I can just imagine getting one of those cans home, then having it sit on the shelf for ages because we don’t know what flavor is inside. Could be tuna, could be salmon, or maybe even chicken. Without a label, all we know is that it’s cat food.

Email subject lines are the same way. We’ve all seen those emails that hit our inbox and say ‘Zoom’ or ‘Deadline’ or even ‘Don’t forget’. At a glance how are we supposed to know what’s actually inside those emails until we take a moment and open them up to look? And every time we go to our email we have to open that message up again because there are no clues as to what is inside. Just like that mystery meat cat food.

That’s why I’m a big proponent of descriptive subject lines in your email.  They allow you to quickly prioritize and categorize an email, letting you get back to your day that much faster. I’m talking about subject lines like ‘Zoom meeting at 7?’ or ‘Miller project deadline extended to Feb’ or even ‘Don’t forget to feed the fish’. See the difference?

I know you can’t control what other people put in their subject lines, that’s true. But who was it that said ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’? Don’t forget either, that you can sometimes change the subject line of an email before you return it. Help avoid the mystery meat emails!

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23 February 2021

Who Really Needs Email Folders?

When I talk about email management, I’ve had people ask me, “Are email folders necessary? Can’t you just use search to find what you need and keep everything in the inbox?”

Ask any two organizers, and you’ll probably get two different answers and there’s an argument to be made for both options.

Utilizing search can help you find an email quicker and more efficiently than digging through various folders. Locating everything in the inbox means there’s only one place to look. But…what do you do with action items?

Remember, all email is either an action item, a reference item, or a trash item. If you are keeping all email in your inbox, it’s easy for those action items to get lost among the trash and reference material. And if you get a lot of email, those important items can quickly fall below the scroll and out of sight often equals out of mind.

Which leaves you with utilizing folders to organize your email.

Using folders allows you to get your reference material out of your inbox and away from any action items that may be hidden. It also means that, when you do utilize search, you can do a focused search in one folder, rather than a broad search in all of your email. Having folders can allow for quicker retrieval of that one email you’re looking for.

But it does take time to create a folder structure – even a very general one – and it takes effort to process your email into those folders every day instead of just leaving them in your inbox.

So what’s the right answer?  The answer is, it depends on you. I prefer a folder structure. Even a general one is going to help you organize your email and allow you to keep those action emails front and center. Yes, it’s a little bit of effort, but one I feel is worth it in the end.

Need help getting those emails tackled? Let me know and we can figure it out together! 

16 February 2021

Reason 11 To Keep Your Email Organized

Texas is in a deep freeze this week. For me that means a frozen swimming pool, frozen pipes, and rolling blackouts. It’s all kinds of not fun. Trust me when I tell you, I’m not Zoom ready by any means. My kingdom for a hot shower.

Because of the rolling blackouts, we have 15 minutes of power, then 30 minutes of no power. No power means no internet, which means no sending emails or checking Facebook. It also means conserving my laptop battery as much as I can by leaving it turned off unless I’m actively working.

But April, just use your phone! Of course…except AT&T is having trouble with their towers as well so no Internet there either. I know, bummer all the way around. I thought I left this behind when I moved away from Iowa.

So when I do get 10 or 15 minutes to work, I try to make sure I am being as productive as possible with my workload. This is when having my email organized becomes an asset. Instead of spending my precious time sorting and searching through emails for that one message, I can go right to what I need to work on. Then, I can knock out 4 or 5 email responses before the power goes out again.

Focusing on work right now is tough, but being organized helps me be super productive when I actually crawl out from underneath the blankets and cats. How about you? What’s your why for getting organized?

If you need help figuring out your why, give me a call and we’ll talk about it!