Seven Ways to Control Your Inbox!

Today I came across an anonymous quote for writers.
“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet.”

How true is that for you?

And perhaps the biggest distraction of all is the never-ending stream of email popping into our inboxes.

According to a case study by Loughborough University, it takes an average of 64 seconds to fully recover from being interrupted by an email.

Yet we have a little alarm that religiously calls our attention whenever an email arrives! If that isn’t bad enough, we may also have a little popup designed to interrupt our thought process each time. And perhaps we have our program set to download email every five minutes. How crazy is that?

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an article entitled7 Ways to Control your Inbox” It received well over 2,000 hits, so I guess I’m not the only one with an email problem. I used the suggestions I made on my laptop, and emails are still under control on that machine. Problem is, I never got around to doing it on my desktop computer–and quite honestly the problem there is so out of hand I don’t know where to start. The other problem is that I am so easily distracted. And that’s where this post is going . . .

Time to learn to say “No!” Perhaps you want to travel along with me?

Here are seven ways to break the distraction of emails, and win back the time they try to steal from you.

Many of these you may recognise from the previous article, in which case, “Well done!” If you haven’t taken these simple steps, now’s the time to take them, plus a number of other suggestions that will help you . . . me . . . us . . . find more time and become more productive, by cancelling out this major distraction to our daily schedule.

  1. Sort Your Settings: Each mail program is different, but they should all have a way to cancel the alarm that rings when a new email arrives. Uncheck that checkbox! Also the one that says, “Check for new mail every X minutes”. Why do you need that?
  1. Divide and Designate: Create folders in your email program, so you can see at a glance where the important emails are likely to be.

Some examples are: Family and Friends, Newsletters, Links, Store, Junk, plus a separate folder for any email group you belong to that is likely to send more than one mail a day. (I have one for TWV, one for CWOSA, one for CWGI. You get the picture.) You don’t want them all in the same box, as you’ll waste time looking for a specific topic. This way, you can see at a glance when new mail has arrived and where it is.

  1. Filter to Folders: Learn how to set filters in your email program. Create message rules (filters) that will send the routine emails to the relevant folders. Leave others to go straight to your inbox which you check three times a day. (Set a time limit to how long you’ll take to do this. That will make you work quicker, and also save you getting bogged down. Leave more complex mail until the last session of the day.)
  1. Deal with Downloads: Limit the number of times you download emails to three times a day, and don’t check allemails three times a day. Select the best time (usually first thing in the morning or last thing at night) when you will look at the non-urgent folders, for example your newsletters. Once a day is sufficient for these, or even twice a week. Any new ones that arrive today will still be there tomorrow and the next day. Your junk box—check it once a day or even twice a week.

Check first thing in the morning in case anything urgent came in while you were asleep. (This is especially relevant to those in the west of the globe. You need to see what those American friends have been up to during your night!) Limit your time, and then switch off your email program. That’s what I said. Switch it off!

  1. Judge the Junk: Today’s email programs usually come with message filters to send messages that look as if they could be spam into the junk folder. Check this folder twice a week, but don’t just delete the baddies or open the good ones. Train your program to recognize the true junk messages that you don’t want to get, so you don’t waste time on them again.
  1. Delete the Deleted: Periodically clean out your email folders, especially Deleted (Trash) and Sent. Email takes up a lot of space on your computer, and will cause your machine to become sluggish.
  1. Revive and Restore: Baydin has produced a 21-day program that it claims will help you:
  • Acquire new tools and strategies to handle email more effectively
    • Improve your communication skills
    • Identify your email personality
    • Be the proud owner of a healthy inbox
    • Eliminate the causes of email anxiety
    • Enjoy more free time

This program includes an email scheduling tool that helps you focus on messages that are important now. And The Email Game that helps you go through messages faster. I can’t say much more except that I’ve signed up! You can even choose what time of the day you want to receive the message.

According to them, today I ” took an important step: email no longer has the power to interrupt [me] when [I’m] doing something more important. Tomorrow, we’ll work on reducing the amount of email coming in.”

Sound good? Who’s going to join me?

OVER TO YOU: “Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet.” To what degree is your writing routine distracted by the internet, and in particular email? Any comments?

OTHER READING: 7 Ways to Control your Inbox