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Day 28: More Effective Email Management

Emails can be a productivity killer, but they are essential for my communication. The actual problem is multifaceted because emails demand immediate attention. The constant checking of the inbox has become ingrained in my brain, redirecting my focus to it regardless of my current activity.

Each time, I depart from a state of Deep Work and divert my attention to an entirely different subject—emails. Returning to the state of Deep Work then costs significant energy and time.

Considering the effort required to achieve a state of Deep Work as a reservoir of a certain energy, it gets depleted little by little each time I shift my focus away and have to painstakingly restore it. Eventually, this energy reservoir runs empty, making it impossible for me to reach a state of Deep Work. Consequently, I become less productive.

So, emails are indeed a substantial productivity killer, and it's worthwhile, even necessary, to find a solution.

The Empty Inbox Policy

I've adopted a simple strategy for handling emails more effectively. Firstly, I embrace an Empty Inbox strategy. Every day, always after work, I go through every email in my inbox and make a decision regarding what to do with each one.

For each email, I make one of the following decisions:

  1. Delete it if there's no value in it for me.
  2. Create a task if there's something to be done.
  3. Respond when a reply is expected.

It may sound simple, and, in essence, it is. However, the key is to consider each email as a small project. My interaction with it should serve the purpose of advancing the mini-project in some way. Ideally, a response to the email should not lead to further questions or tasks. The goal is to answer it as comprehensively as necessary so that no additional queries or tasks may arise.

Scheduling Fixed Times for Email Processing

Another crucial point is preventing the email inbox from diverting my attention. It should not happen that a total stranger, a newsletter, or even spam messages disrupt my state of Deep Work and drain my energy. Therefore, I've scheduled fixed times in my calendar for deliberately opening my email inbox and processing the messages.

During these times, I have all notifications deactivated.

You might feel obligated to respond to emails as quickly as possible. Here, I can reassure you: Just because I go through my inbox in the evening and send you a message, it doesn't mean I expect a response from you on the same evening. 😉


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