Almost everybody has email these days. If you’re reading this blog, it means you are online and probably have an email account or two somewhere.
Email inboxes can quickly turn into black holes.
You sign up for way too many newsletters (me too), plus you get the cute and funny stuff from your friends and family. And tucked in there somewhere is probably something that you really want to read. Or really should read.
The problem with us as ADDers is that each day or hour’s worth of email is, for us, a little bit of excitement. Who has sent us something and what is it? There is always the thrill of something new arriving.
Of course, that can quickly suck the time from your day and leave you with a great big mess. Even worse, you may have missed or forgotten something really important in there. For a lot of us, as soon as it’s read, it’s old news and no longer on our radar.
In order to tame the email monster, you have to first have an email program that works well for you.
I personally still love Outlook, because it makes organizing your mail so easy, but since that is a desktop application, it’s completely useless to me. I need something that I can access from anywhere using whatever device is available.
Right now I use Gmail. I’m not in love with it, but I’ve tried a lot of others and not liked them either. If you have an email program you love, please let me know!
OK, so once you’ve got an email program that you are reasonably happy with, you need to teach yourself some new habits.
The biggest and most important habit to learn is to manage each piece of email once.
What we do instead is rush through each and every email, starring some to come back to later and hoping we will remember others.
I don’t know about you, but Gmail moves anything I’ve read from my Unread folder to the Read folder. Guess how many times I go back through that folder and check for things I need to follow up on? Yeah. Not often enough.
The better way is this:
Open your first email and read it. If it’s something you know you can delete without reading, do so.
Otherwise, read it and see what it wants from you. Is it something with a date attached? Put it on your calendar now then archive or delete the email.
Is it informational? Perhaps there is a new policy in place at work or someone is sending you a great recipe for chicken soup. If this is the case, you have a few options.
Print it out and file it appropriately. Be extremely careful with this step! You can quickly overwhelm yourself with too much paper, especially if you have no file set up in advance.
if your email program lets you tag emails or otherwise label them or store them in a folder, then move them there.
Get in the habit of using your archive and search functions more often.
And finally, work your way through that backlog of email and take care of it.
Or alternatively, you could just select it all and archive it. Go on. Be brave.