Four Tips For A Low-Stress Inbox

Emails: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Email is a wonderful tool in today’s world, but it can also be a huge time suck. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to stay on top of it, it can turn into a disorganized mess that adds stress to our already demanding days.

Research has found that it can take up to 25 minutes to refocus our attention at work once we’re interrupted. Considering the number of emails we receive daily, it can seem almost impossible to accomplish the tasks on our to-do lists.

Here are a few thoughtful ways to handle email, remove some of that unneeded stress, and add time back to our days.

Address it now

There’s no better time than the present. After reading an email, if you think it will take you five minutes or less to respond, do it right then.  The smaller number of emails in your inbox the better.  So take the few minutes to address the email or quick task and get on with the bigger priorities.

Hit that delete button

How many times have you received an email that is not relevant to you and you wonder why you received it?  It could be an advertisement trying to sell you something or an email you’re CC’ed on that is full of information you didn’t need to know.  If you read an email and know the information adds no value to you or your job and you will never need to reference it again, then delete it. There’s no reason emails like this should clutter your inbox.

Delegate it

If you have the luxury of working with a team of individuals that can share the workload, take advantage of it.  There may be times that someone has more knowledge of the situation to better respond to the email. However, before giving someone else the opportunity to reply, make sure the reasoning is made clear and that things don’t get lost in the transfer of responsibility. Ultimately, remember that your team is there to support you, so it’s okay to ask for help. Trust others to handle whatever comes their way when appropriate, and again, be clear on who you delegate the responsibility to and why.

Set a date and time to address it

There will be plenty of times when you read an email and acknowledge that a response will take more than five minutes to craft or there is an additional task you need to complete to fully address the email.  This is where you look at your calendar and current to-do list to decide when you have the time to focus your attention on it. It may be later that day or later in the week, but by designating a time to get to it, you’ll be sure to take care of business when it’s best for you.

It’s so easy to let your inbox become your to-do list. Emails pile up day after day and even if you intend to respond later or get to it tomorrow, some emails are bound to slip through the cracks, so be intentional about your email habits and regain control over your time.

As long as we’re in the professional world, emails will always be a part of our lives. Instead of letting them cause us anxiety and stress, we can learn to manage our inbox and control the chaos.  Implementing these tactics can help you to feel less overwhelmed and more in control of your day.

Danielle Koban