You may have read the earlier article about email batching – a technique that helps you conquer the day’s email once or twice a day, rather than being bogged down in constant responses. This time, I’m going to discuss a different – but complementary – technique: Inbox Nirvana.
Before I do that, though, I did get some feedback from people on the first article about email batching. I understand that it’s hard to cut down on checking your email. Even I can’t do it all the time, because I know how exciting it is to get an email.
If you can’t cut down all the way, go to once an hour. Keep your notifications off and check at a set time. Again, the earlier rule applies – if once an hour is not soon enough, the sender will call you or find another way to reach you.
Email batching, then, is the first step to Email Nirvana.
Step two is unsubscribing – if you’re getting advertisements, newsletters, Twitter updates, LinkedIn messages, and Facebook notifications hundreds of times a day, you’re wasting time. Click unsubscribe on the newsletters (unless they’re from Rocket Matter) and advertisements (and make sure you’re sending SPAM to your junk folder). Tell Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to stop notifying you – and download HootSuite or Tweetdeck if it’s imperative you receive updates. I use Tweetdeck to manage over 40 columns of constantly updating information from Twitter, Facebook, Buzz, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and more – and none of it is in my email.
Step three of Email Nirvana is getting your inbox clear. Email Nirvana subscribes to the theory that inbox emptiness is next to godliness. Once a week, set aside time to ensure that every email receives the attention that it deserves: file old messages in an archive folder, move bills and invoices to an invoice folder, separate client documents to client folders, and so forth.
Step four may be a bit difficult. Business email should be business email– keep personal email out of it. Lawyers should know this instinctively, but your company email is generally not private, so try to keep business email to the business. And make sure that your emails are straightforward and to the point. (I liked to write in-depth, pleasant email until someone asked why I was upset with them when I sent a three-word email one day – since that day, I make sure my professional emails are as straightforward and polite as possible.)
There’s one additional step that can be taken if you’re absolutely overwhelmed – although it is not the best idea for lawyers who may be relying on their inbox. It will get you to Email Nirvana immediately – and it involves the Delete key. Send a message to everyone in your inbox telling them you’ve lost your email… then hit delete on every message in your inbox. The important messages will be resent – but now you should know how to keep on top of them!
Jerry Levine is an attorney, social media evangelist, technologist, and all-around awesome guy. He consults with FSRDG (www.fsrdg.com), a legal technology, eDiscovery, and investment firm; founded NetworkEsq. to speak about social media and social networking, and edits the Journal of Legal Technology Risk Management (www.ltrm.org), as well as few other concepts that are still brewing. Outside of law, Jerry likes food, brewing his own beer, playing with his Wii, and has two cats – Lo Mein & Yakineko. He can be reached at email@example.com, on the web at jerrylevine.com, and is @jerry_levine on twitter.