Here’s another good technique: email sprints. Take a clicker* and use it to keep track while sending out ten QUICK emails in rapid succession.
I love doing email sprints. You can fit them easily in between other tasks and they clear out your inbox like nothing else. Sprinting also gives you a wonderful little productivity “lift” and helps you practice the valuable skill of sending terse emails. Here are some good quickies to send:
The key, as mentioned above, is “terse.” No more than three sentences in each mail, and bonus points if you can get one down to a few words, as in: “Yes-thanks!” or “Not a good fit--sorry!” or, “7 pm OK?” or, “Thought you’d like to see this!”
Now, of course it’s possible to get too terse—but making that mistake occasionally is far better than overdoing all the dozens, or hundreds, of emails you’re receiving every week. Like most productivity work, sprinting can be difficult at first, but quickly gets easier and more gratifying. The more you sprint, the more you can sprint, and the more you want to sprint!
So do a sprint!
*The clicker, of course, is optional, but I love using props. No matter how fascinating your work is, constant screen work gets monotonous. The simple physical act of clicking helps break the monotony, and the little click! sound is also motivating. (And if this reminds you of clicker training for dogs, I’m cool with that.)
What’s better than an email sprint? Using filters, signatures, auto-responders, etc., to reduce the amount of email you need to manage to start with. Recently, a workshop attendee asked for some time management tips, and I told her that the big tip is to have as little as possible to manage. People laughed, but I meant it.