How to Process Your Inboxes

Today’s topic is inbox processing.
Let’s think about how email works and how we handle it.

Concept 1: Batch process your inbox

Imagine your email inbox is an actual, physical mailbox, like the mailbox at the end of your driveway.
You wouldn’t walk out to your mailbox 20 times a day to check the mail. It would be a huge waste of your time.

When it’s time to get the mail, here’s what most people do with it:

  • Junk mail is tossed immediately (and you curse the senders for killing so many trees.).
  • Unimportant items are scanned for anything valuable you save the item if there’s something worthwhile in it.
  • Important mail that requires action is put aside for you to take care of later.
  • Letters that need to go to other people are given to that person.

In other words, you make a bunch of decisions about each item in one sitting. We call this batch processing.

And that’s the way you should handle your electronic and physical inboxes. A few (2 or 3) times a day you should go into your inbox to process what’s in there.

PRO-TIP: Turn off your email notifications!

Having notifications turned on every time you get a new message will distract you from the work you **should** be doing, and is like having the mailman knock on your office door to deliver each piece of mail one at a time. Annoying!!

Concept 2: Processing VS. Doing

Processing your inbox is different than **doing** work. Processing is making decisions about what to do with each item. When you process your inbox, you will focus on decisions, not work (though there is one small exception).

When you process an inbox (physical, email, Todoist), the goal is to get it back down to ZERO. Here’s a flowchart do visualize the process.

Zen Productivity clear your mind and get things done. Google Slides

I saved this image as part of my desktop background.

* If it will take less than 2 minutes to reply to/take care of the email – DO IT NOW.
* If you can’t do it now, send it away(Boomerang) and have it return when you can work on i.
* If you can delegate the item, do that.
* If there is a task (or more) in the email, create a task in Todoist and archive the email.
* If it’s an item that is for reference, archive it (you can always search for it later via keywords and, you can always add your own keywords to help future you search for it), or if it is paper – archive it in your physical file folders.
* If it’s an item that needs to be put on your calendar (appointments, meetings – things that you need to be present for), then get all the pertinent info into your calendar.

And that’s it! It is much more efficient to handle your email in batches a couple times a day in this manner. You will save TONS of time with this method.

Once you’ve hit zero – you can go back to work!

Happy processing!!