As I am currently working my way through Bit Literacy by Mark Hurst, I can’t help but think about the insane amount of media, messages, and information that we are confronted with on a daily basis. Like Hurst does though, I want to take a few moments today and speak directly to “Bits” or pieces of electronic data. Even more specifically I want to talk about email.
We live in a culture, or at least America Business does, entrenched in emails. Taking into account how relatively new the technology supporting our email habit is, the volume and dependence on the medium is shocking. Personally, I cannot keep track of how many messages enter and leave my inbox any given day, and how often I check my email – even when I am “Out of the Office.”
The constant stream of emails tends to cause a great amount of stress for anyone and even can lead to a form of messaging paralysis whereby the end user stares at an inbox with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of messages with no method by which to prioritize.
So how do we escape? You probably don’t if we are being honest. To completely escape email would require “getting off the grid” and completely excluding yourself from modern society. The more reasonable solution to our email overload is to learn how to manage the chaos and tame your inbox.
Probably the most common methodology for creating an inbox that is efficient and minimally stressful, also one covered by Hurst is the Inbox Zero method. At a high level, Inbox Zero is a pretty self-explanatory idea. Get your inbox to zero messages. Not just zero new or unread messages, but rather, completely remove all messages from you inbox. This can be manifested in several ways:
Files and Folders
After reading through a message completely, it should be filed somewhere other than your inbox. Create folders for important projects, frequent senders, topics, etc. Whatever works best for your day-to-day should be reflected in how you file messages.
Don’t Be Afraid to Let Go
This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. It’s really quite simple but sometimes incredibly difficult to put into practice. Delete any message that doesn’t matter. If you are never going to read the message again for any reason, just send it to the trash.
If you are anything like me, there are millions of companies, web sites, and spamming groups that have your email address. It is time to break up with them. If you find yourself just deleting the email without ever reading it, just unsubscribe. Take the three minutes today to remove yourself from their list and you will never delete their message ever again.
As I read back through my post here, I realize I made this process far simpler than it really is. Managing your email is a long and arduous process – multiplied if you have more than one inbox. If you work to become “Bit Literate” as Mark Hurst writes though, I promise that you will be more productive and reduce your overall stress level.