68,392 unread emails. That’s my inbox. How do your organise your email? Is a great interview question that gives insight into how someone organises their time. If I spent 30 seconds on all those emails, it would cost me >566 hours or 56 working days assuming I did nothing else. Not feasible.
I take 30 to 60 minutes in my day, semi-scheduled to go through emails. I read all headlines. If I think I can deal with in a minute or so, I answer immediately. If it’s of no value I move on. If I need to consider it, I click it open / mark it. If I think I might forget, I note it down physically.
Some peeps file and delete. But, I think there’s agreement that a set time to do it, is better than allowing it to pop up during your whole day as it saps attention and disturbs psychological flow.
My 2nd tip here, is to NOT make email the first thing you do when you sit at your desk in the morning. Make it anything else, preferably real world eg read a piece of research, a physical journal or assess your list of things to do; consider spending 10 to 20 minutes journaling thoughts, ideas, things to do. Then you can switch on your computer if you need to.
My 3rd tip: for most meetings, lunches, dinners and dates leave your phone at your desk, or at least switched off and in your bag. Not visible or tempting on the table.
The benefits of my system:
-super time efficient
-set time to deal with emails means workflow not interrupted
-not starting day with emails activates my Work thinking differently (might be different for you)
-avoids huge drain of time when time is one of my top assets
-never deleting means whole archive always there for retrieval
-can be semi-flex abou checking emails eg using downtime while waiting for a train
-quick reading of headlines can mean occasionally missing an email of value especially if headline is worded poorly (people used to be better at headlines)
-leaving emails for later runs risk of tardy execution (risk minimised by physical noting of important but not urgent emails, actually the most high value)
-not filing or deleting means finding old emails can take a few minutes longer (but I’m good at remembering key words for searches)
As a side observation, there is no “correct” way of organising time. But to enable a team of diverse strengths you don’t want all the team to organise like me - that’s why it’s a useful interview question.
Other viable systems can rely on:
-having a personal assistant to organise your emails
-having 2 or 3 email addresses so that personal, Work and bulk emails are already presorted and separated.
-finding a set time to zero in and delete/file emails
-a filter/file macro set up
I’m co-responsible for $7 billion in people’s retirement savings as well as a Chair of a nationally funded innovative theatre company and a parent of an autistic spectrum child.
I’m unlikely to go backwards and receive fewer than 100 to 200 emails a day. I have no ambition to be a CEO who would likely receive more.
200 emails at 3 seconds a headline is a manegable 10 minutes, leaving me 50 minutes to respond to emails. A time efficient balance for me.
If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try: Ursula K Le Guin on literature as an operating manual for life; Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; Charlie Munger on always inverting; JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. There is also Anne Lamott on writing and truth as paradox. And Oprah on gratitude and service.
Cross fertilise. Read about the autistic mind here.