How to manage your inbox (before it manages you)

Courtesy of Camille Preston

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you manage email overload? is written by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.

Email is our friend and the enemy. We love it and we hate it. We need it and we want it, but too often the price we pay is complete email overload. As certain as the sun will rise, our inboxes will be overflowing by mid-morning (if not by the break of day).

Honestly, we’ve done it to ourselves. We overuse it to communicate and as a result, have conditioned ourselves to respond to every ping. This is terrible for our productivity because email diminishes peak performance and disrupts our work flow. Every time an e-mail interrupts you, it costs time, money, and brainpower.

Here are some of my best tips to manage email overload:

  1. Disable notifications. It’s Pavlovian! We have conditioned ourselves to respond the instant we get a new email, but now it’s time to train ourselves to do the exact opposite. Disable notifications so you’re in control.
  2. Set a schedule. You can’t get into a proper work flow if you’re constantly checking email every ten minutes. Instead, establish certain times to check your inbox, like the top of every hour or every 90 minutes. Set a timer on your phone and stick to it.
  3. Scan your inbox. Do a quick scan of your inbox and delete everything that is unnecessary; answer timely requests first.
  4. Use the phone. Instead of creating an email trail (or prolonging one) try picking up the phone or walking over to a colleague’s desk. Often, a five-minute conversation is more productive than an email.
  5. Unsubscribe. What lists or blasts are you on that you can unsubscribe from? Do you really have to be cc’d on all those emails? Establish a clear protocol with colleagues about when to cc you to avoid unnecessary e-mails.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you manage email overload?

Ivanka Trump: 5 tips for managing email overload by Ivanka Trump, executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization.

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