Improving the Inbox

Managing the Email Inbox is like training a lion. There are clearly people who have mastered it, but even they are never more than 1 misstep away from getting their arm bitten off.

When email feels under control, no one is more than a long weekend or extended vacation away from complete chaos.

Here are some of my habits to improve the email inbox:

  • Add an FYI to the email signature. It describes how I handle email and why. Here is an example from my New Story signature:

    email signature
  • Filter purchase receipts and cal invites to separate folders. This removes 100+ emails from view per week. They’re out of site, but still in arms reach.
  • Funnel all email accounts into a single source. I use Polymail for this. A single source for emails allows them to be batched and executed once or twice each day.
  • Set followup reminders. Followup reminders put emails back in your inbox if I don’t hear back from the recipient. This requires some tool, but it improves followthrough. This immediately frees up mental bandwidth.
  • Create templates for meeting rejections, intros, and coffee requests. Here is an example of my ‘meeting rejection’ template:

    email rejection template
  • Disable push notifications and alerts. This works for all apps but is especially valuable for email. Those notifications are designed to get your attention. Disabling them puts interactions on your terms.
  • After holidays or vacation, grab the sender of all unsolicited emails and add them to a new “skip inbox filter to spam” filter. Many retailers and businesses ignore ‘unsubscribes’, so this locks the door.

What else? I’m always looking to tame the lion and experiment with new techniques to keep the inbox under control.