Prioritize 20% emails; Defer 80% ones
Not all emails are the same. 80/20 rule is the idea that 20% of inputs are responsible for 80% of the outputs in any situation. Hence, to be effective, we should focus on 20% inputs that lead to 80% outputs. Likewise, we should focus on 20% high value emails that lead to maximum output.
Realize you don’t need to reply to every mail
Despite what you think, you don’t need to reply to every mail. Sometimes, no reply after a certain time period can be considered a reply in itself too. Don’t stress too much about replying to every single mail. Reply if it helps, but if the costs of replying don’t outweigh the benefits, then maybe it’s not worth worrying about it. Just let it be and things will sort themselves out through time.
Create template replies if you often send similar replies
If you look through your sent folder, you’ll probably find a trend in things you reply to. As you reply, you can customize them accordingly to fit the needs of the original mail. This will save huge amounts of time, compared to in the past when each email needed to be typed up from scratch.
Read only the emails that are relevant
You don’t need to read every single mail that comes in. Pick and select what’s relevant to you.
Structure your mail into categories
Folders (or labels, if you use gmail) are there to help you organize your mail.Firstly, use a relevant naming system to what you’re doing. If your biggest priorities now are, say, (1) writing a book and (2) losing weight, then name your folders as that. Secondly, use hierarchy structure. First level folders are for the big categories, and second level folders are for sub-categories, and so on.
Filters are tools that help you sort out the mail automatically when it gets into your mail. There are 2 basic things are required for a filter – (1) The term to look out for (2) Action to apply if the term is matched. Depending on what filter it is, the mail will be automatically sorted into a respective folder / archived. This minimizes the amount of administrative actions needed to do.
Use the 1 minute rule when replying
If it takes within 1 minute to reply, reply to it immediately and archive it. Don’t let it sit in your mail box for ages. It’s going to take even more effort letting it hover around your mind and being constantly reminded that you need to reply.
Set a limit to the time you spend in the inbox
Beyond the 1 minute rule, limit the overall time you spend in your inbox. The next time you check your mail,time yourself. See how long you take to process, read, reply, and sort through your mail. Then ask yourself how much of that time is well-spent. Chances are, most of that served absolutely no purpose.
Unsubscribe from things you don’t read
In your cruising around the web, you probably sign up for a fair share of newsletters and feeds on impulse which you lose interest in afterward. If you find yourself repeatedly deleting the mail from your subscriptions, it’s a cue that you should just unsubscribe immediately.