Reaching Inbox Bliss

[This is a reprint of an article published last year.]

On a given day, my five email inboxes fill up with around 100 emails. The urge to read, respond, sort, and delete often proves overwhelming. I have to get the number back to zero before I can move on. I confess—it’s almost a compulsion.

Unlike traditional mail, email is cheap and instant. You can whisk out dozens of them without spending a cent, and the recipients have the digital bits nearly as soon as you press the send button. Of course, the same is true in reverse. With a good percentage of the population clacking away at their keyboards, the avalanche of emails often buries ministry leaders.

But you can get your email to work for you instead of being enslaved by it with a few simple steps.

Multiple Email Addresses

Cut down on the email time warp with more email addresses? That might sound crazy, but consider who exactly has your email address. Often, you have to give your address to online sites to purchase items, establish new accounts, and register for giveaways. If you set up an email address specifically to give to such sites, you’ll know that most emails you get on that account are low priority or promotional.

Reserve your main email address for friends, family, or professional contacts. If you have limited time, you can focus on that address for the more important missives.

A program like Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook can easily handle all your accounts (they gather your mail from Exchange, Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo! Mail, and other accounts). Setting them up is easier than you may think.

The When

Resist the urge to check your email more than once or twice per day. If you leave your email program or site open, you’ll constantly check as soon as a new piece of mail pops into existence.

In fact, be careful about checking first thing when you sit down to work. If you do, you’ll likely spend most of your time deleting and typing instead of working on the project you meant to tackle. Could you miss something urgent? Perhaps. But if it’s really important, you’ll likely get a phone call or text message instead.

Plan your time carefully. Open up your mail, work through what you can, and get out when time’s up.

Inbox Zero

Do something with every email you receive instead of letting it taunt you from the inbox. Respond to the most urgent ones and then either delete or archive. If some have information you’ll need later, put them in a folder or archive. For messages that need a response later, move them to folders based on the date or timeframe you need to write back. After that, go through the folder for today’s date and either respond or move them.

Mastering email means being intentional. If you try to simply handle it as you can, you’ll likely end up frustrated with a bloated inbox. Put a system in place and stick with it.