“Never follow anyone else’s path. Unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. Then by all means follow that path.”
― Ellen DeGeneres
Email used to stress me out. I would obsess over staying on top of it and replying promptly. If I received an email on Friday evening about something for Monday morning, I stressed out all weekend. If I was interrupted by even a subtle new mail alert, I immediately moved my attention away from my current focus.
The way I used email hurt my productivity, drove me crazy, and
Now I view email as a practical and helpful tool. Email empowers asynchronous communication, and that’s amazing when done right.
Sure, plenty of people don’t use it effectively, but that’s true of most tools. I’m sure I haven’t optimized my use either, but I have found some tricks that help me utilize the benefits of email without most of the negatives.
My email tricks (as of 2022):
- Use at least three email addresses — one for friends and family, one for hobbies and volunteer groups, and one for work. When you check one of the mailboxes, you won’t be easily distracted by the others.
- Create a CC folder and set a rule that automatically sends new emails to that folder if you are CC’d or BCC’d. Don’t check this folder more than once per day.
- Set up your phone to alert you only for messages that make it to your inbox.
- Set your phone to check email only at certain times. Configure different email addresses differently. For instance, check your hobby email only from 7-9 PM, but your work email only at 2 PM.
- Don’t check email early in the morning. Complete at least one task first.
- Unless you’re “on-call,” checking email twice a day is more than enough.
- You don’t have to reply to every email.
- You don’t have to reply “Thanks” to an email to let the sender know you received it.
- Never use email for synchronous or real-time communication.
- Unsubscribe from everything you don’t actively use.
- If you actively use a subscription, perhaps a useful newsletter, set up a folder and automatically filter those messages.
- Don’t worry about Inbox Zero, but archive emails once you no longer need them.