Take Control of Your Inbox – What Deserves your Attention?

This morning I woke up and checked my email, as I generally do. And in my personal email inbox I found exactly 4 new notes. And they were all from actual people.

Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? Like going to the mail box at the curb and finding only handwritten letters. The stuff of fairy tales.

But this was real. The side effect of a New Year-inspired effort to rid my inbox of all of the various unread subscriptions that have been cluttering the scenery for far too long. Fifteen (15!) versions of Living Social, daily sale flyers from every store I have ever visited, LinkedIn updates from groups I visited once – all gone.

It was cleansing, to say the least.

It was hard to cut the cord on some of them. Several of the newsletters contained some excellent content. Some of the reminders are truly valid and useful. I do enjoy a good sale, or half-price rock climbing expedition (not that I’ve ever been on one – but the idea is attractive.)

The problem is that in the midst of the cluttered heap of spam and bacn (better than spam, not as good as personal email), it was impossible to focus on anything at all.

Things feel strangely empty in my mailbox – like the living room now that the holiday decorations are put away. But the space makes it so much easier to focus on actually reading the things that made the cut.

I am vowing to be more judicious about what I sign up for going forward, although it is challenging to control my desire to know everything all the time. But as with most things, it’s better to focus on a few things that matter instead of being distracted by endless options clouding the scene.

How do you manage information overload and decide what gets your attention?

Comments (5)

  1. My focus is on stopping my period checking of email throughout the day as it wastes time and the quality of my attention. Schedule dedicated 15-30 min. slots 2-3 times per day to “process” your inbox to zero. Processing is more than checking, but less than responding (every email doesn’t need a response). You are seeking to touch every email just one time – period! Immediately Respond, Delegate, File (you won’t refer to 80% of it again), Defer to dedicated calendar slot if the current email requires work before responding, and then move on. Be decisive. Your inbox is for unread email. When you get out of email, you will be able to focus on what’s important.

  2. Love the bacn article! I use a few techniques to make email more efficient.

    I use folders for certain people/requests and go through those first.
    I browse my emails on my phone between meetings and flag the ones that need/deserve a response.
    I shut down emails at particular time of the day and try to not start my day with just email but rather specific tasks.

    Hope this helps!
    Bruno
    @brunoaziza

  3. I don’t subscribe to anything that is specifically related to sales or promotions from stores. If I want to go somewhere or buy something, I research it. This is helpful because I am trying to control unnecessary spending! Then I have any newsletters or other regular content automatically filed to a “business reading” folder. I manually move articles and links others send me to that file, too. Once or twice a day, I scan the articles to determine if there are any I want to read. When I am out of the office, or just don’t have time, I delete everything in the folder. I do the same with RSS feeds. I’ve been doing this for about a year now, and it works well for me. Good luck staying un-distracted!

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