Taking a week off work is great, but it can take a bit of discipline to resist that urge to just ‘check for any urgent emails’! It’s so tempting, especially if you can access your emails via your mobile phone.
Having a ‘screen ban’ is pretty essential to getting some real rest and recuperation (at least it is for me) but that niggling worry that you might miss something, or you will have too much to do on your return can be quite distracting.
Having a strategy to be able to clear my inbox in less than an hour, on my first morning back, has been my saving grace.
This is how I do it.
I have a simple system for
- Things I can do in less than a minute
- Things I need to do
- Things I need to keep
I use a project and task management system called Asana so that I don’t use my email inbox as a ‘to do’ list. Because if I fall for that, I end up doing everyone else’s ‘to do’s and never get round to my own! I can simply forward emails to Asana, where they are turned into tasks, and appear on my Task List. You can use whatever app, or system you like (notebook, post it notes, all good – just make sure the system works for YOU). I can then work down my Asana task list when I choose to. (I have a system for that too – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to write a post about that too!)
I use Evernote for things I want to keep – and can simply forward the email, and it turns into a note. (I also save important attachments to my One-Drive) You could equally use One Note, or another similar app – or pen & paper
This is how I clear my inbox:
I close down any social media sites, turn my phone to silent, and generally reduce the possibility of any interruptions.
I set a timer for 25 minutes, after the first 25 minutes I take a 5 minute break, and then repeat. (I can usually complete this process in 2 x 25 minutes – but you might need 3 goes the first time.)
I sort my emails by ‘From’ rather than date.
I begin at the top (from people with names beginning with ‘A’ )
If I find an email that includes a task that would take me less than a minute to resolve – I do it, and then delete the email.
If an email contains information I want to keep – I forward it to Evernote.
If an email contains a request for me to take action – I forward it to Asana.
If I get important emails from a person on a regular basis, I create a folder just for them – and create a rule so that these emails go straight there, and not to my inbox. (It’s easy then for me to check their most recent emails).
As we are sorted by ‘From’ it makes it easy for me see the spam emails – I right click and add these to junk – this lessens the problem next time. (And you can block delete multiple emails very easily).
If I am getting a lot of spam from a certain sender – I unsubscribe from one email (again, lessens the impact next time) and then just delete all remaining emails from that sender.
Once I get to the bottom of the In Folder, I put it back into ‘sorted by date’ mode.
I look through emails sent in the last week (or the period I have been on an email ban!) This is just to double check I haven’t missed anything. I use the ‘do now/to do/to keep’ system once more.
I can now check the email folders I have set up that contain emails from specific people. You know who to prioritise!!
I smile smugly, and put the kettle on!
Let me know if this helps 😊